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Hong Kong’s Cryptocurrency Guidelines – Reinforcing Financial Hub Status Amidst Challenges

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Hong Kong is on the verge of introducing fresh guidelines for the cryptocurrency industry, granting retail investors the opportunity to participate in crypto trading.

This development showcases Hong Kong’s resolve to solidify its position as a leading financial hub in digital assets, despite ongoing conflicts between digital asset companies and regulatory bodies in other Asian nations.

Hong Kong to Introduce New Guidelines for Crypto Trading, Consolidating Financial Hub Status

The Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong is scheduled to announce the outcomes of its consultation on retail participation during a briefing on Tuesday. It is anticipated that the commission will proceed with its plan to enable individual investors to trade major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether starting next month, subject to appropriate safeguards.

Hong Kong crypto Trading

In an effort to restore its status as a cutting-edge financial hub, Hong Kong will introduce a licensing framework for virtual asset platforms on June 1. However, the integration of cryptocurrencies has generated controversy due to the market downturn in 2022, which led to a wave of bankruptcies globally, including the collapse of the FTX exchange.

Lennix Lai, the chief commercial officer at crypto exchange OKX, expressed his belief that the conclusions of the consultation will mirror the sentiment shared by the digital asset community, emphasizing the importance of a secure, compliant, and robust retail trading ecosystem within the virtual asset space.

Past few days have witnessed tensions between regulators and the cryptocurrency industry in Malaysia and the Philippines. Malaysia reproached the Huobi Global platform for operating “illegally” and demanded the closure of its activities in the country. A spokesperson for Huobi clarified that the exchange had not been operational in Malaysia since 2022.

Similarly, the Philippines accused Gemini Trust Co., a non-US derivatives trading venue, of lacking the necessary permits for conducting operations in the nation. A spokesperson from Gemini declined to comment on the matter.

Hong Kong’s consultation paper, unveiled in February, presented a strategy to permit individual investors to engage in trading prominent cryptocurrencies on licensed exchanges overseen by the Securities and Futures Commission. To safeguard investors, the regulatory body aims to implement protective measures, including knowledge assessments, risk evaluations, and sensible limitations on exposure.

According to the consultation paper, the eligible cryptocurrencies should be included in at least two acceptable and investable indexes provided by independent entities, one of which should possess experience in the traditional financial sector.

Regulatory authorities across the globe are wrestling with the complexities presented by the cryptocurrency sector. While regions such as Hong Kong and Dubai are actively seeking to lure investments related to cryptocurrencies, Singapore is devising plans to impose limitations on the participation of retail investors.

South Korea is anticipated to enact its first-ever comprehensive legislation focused solely on cryptocurrencies, a step prompted by a string of scandals. Concurrently, the United States has significantly heightened its enforcement actions against the industry, signaling a more stringent approach.

Given the industry’s contraction and partial recovery from a $1.5 trillion crash in the previous year, uncertainties remain regarding Hong Kong’s foray into cryptocurrencies. Nonetheless, firms such as Huobi Global, OKX, and Amber Group have expressed their intentions to seek licenses under the new regulatory framework.

Eddie Yue, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, has conveyed that companies should anticipate a rigorous regulatory environment. Although Hong Kong aims to foster an ecosystem that attracts enthusiasm, Yue emphasized that this does not equate to lax regulation during an interview at the Bloomberg Wealth Asia Summit earlier this month.

Hong Kong’s Decision To Aid Retail Crypto Adoption

Hong Kong’s securities regulator is expanding access to cryptocurrency trading by announcing new measures to allow retail investors to access virtual asset platforms.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong has revealed plans to grant licensed crypto platforms the ability to serve regular retail investors. Trading platform operators that are willing to adhere to the SFC’s proposed guidelines are encouraged to apply for a license.

The guidelines pertaining to virtual asset trading platforms will include a range of criteria, with aspects such as the safety of asset custody, segregation of client assets, and adherence to cybersecurity standards.

The SFC’s CEO, Julia Leung, emphasized the importance of setting clear expectations for regulators, stating that it is crucial for fostering a responsible and innovative development environment.

Julia Hong Kong Treasury

The SFC intends to implement several robust measures to ensure the protection of retail investors. These measures include emphasizing good governance, suitability assessments during the onboarding process, thorough token due diligence, admission criteria, and disclosure requirements.

Despite the forthcoming implementation of the guidelines in June 2023, the SFC has yet to grant approval to any virtual asset trading platforms for the provision of services to individual investors. Throughout the consultation period, the commission received 152 written submissions from various industry participants.

The announcement also noted that most virtual asset trading platforms accessible to the general public are currently operating without regulation from the SFC.

In cases where businesses choose not to comply with the forthcoming guidelines, they are advised to prepare for an orderly closure of their operations in Hong Kong.

Neil Tan, who holds the position of chair at the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, expressed his view that the integration of digital assets into the financial industry is an organic advancement for the country.

Notably, a state-owned Chinese company named Greenland has already applied for a virtual asset trading license in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s comprehensive regulatory framework for virtual assets follows the principle of “same business, same risks, same rules,” with the aim of providing robust investor protection and managing key risks.

A Forex Suggest study conducted in July 2022 identified Hong Kong as the most prepared country for widespread cryptocurrency adoption, scoring 8.6 on the crypto-readiness scale.

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