Risks and Rewards: A deep dive into Hong Kong’s crypto licensing regime

Risks and Rewards: A deep dive into Hong Kong’s crypto licensing regime

In recent times, Hong Kong has emerged as a key player in the global crypto market. The region’s location and regulatory environment have attracted many crypto investors and businesses. However, until recently, Hong Kong lacked a clear regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, which raised concerns about investor protection and market stability. To address these concerns, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) announced a new licensing regime for crypto exchanges in November 2021. The new regulations will require all virtual asset trading platforms operating in Hong Kong to obtain a license from the SFC, making it the first jurisdiction in Asia to implement such a regime.

Many investors and industry players have welcomed the move, seeing it as a positive step towards making Hong Kong a major player in the global crypto market. The new licensing regime is expected to attract more institutional investors to Hong Kong and improve the transparency and credibility of the crypto industry in the region.

However, some investors and industry players remain cautious and have raised concerns about the potential risks associated with the new regulation. In this opinion article, we will explore the opportunities and risks associated with the new Hong Kong crypto regulation, compare it with Singapore and South Korea, and discuss whether China is likely to back out.

Pros and Cons

The new Hong Kong crypto regulation presents several opportunities for the industry. Firstly, the licensing regime allows for the creation of new crypto exchanges, which will attract more investors and create more jobs. The new exchange, called Huobi Hong Kong, will focus on institutional investors and high-net worth individuals. This is good news for the industry as institutional investors are known to bring stability and liquidity to the market.

Secondly, the new regulation is expected to attract more foreign investment into Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s strong determination to regain the title of global crypto center is reflected in the series of policies and statements issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This is expected to create a favorable business environment that will attract foreign investors and companies to Hong Kong. This will benefit not only the crypto industry but also the overall economy of Hong Kong.

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Thirdly, the new regulation is expected to enhance transparency and reduce the risk of money laundering and fraud. The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission has taken a regulatory approach to cryptocurrencies, which contrasts with recent actions in the US of regulation by enforcement. This approach will help build trust among investors and promote long-term growth in the industry.

Although the new Hong Kong crypto regulation presents several opportunities, it also comes with some risks. One of the biggest risks is the potential for increased market volatility. The crypto market is notoriously volatile, and the creation of new exchanges and the influx of more investors may exacerbate this. Moreover, there is the possibility of fraud and manipulation, which can further increase volatility and undermine investor confidence.

Secondly, the new regulation may lead to a concentration of power in the hands of a few large exchanges. This can lead to a lack of competition, which can result in higher fees and a decrease in innovation. This is a problem that has been observed in other industries, such as banking and telecommunications, where a lack of competition has resulted in poorer service and higher prices.

Thirdly, there is the risk of government interference. While the Hong Kong government has been supportive of the new regulation, there is always the possibility that it may change its stance. This could lead to a situation where the government restricts or bans crypto trading altogether. This would have a devastating impact on the industry and its investors.

Comparison with Singapore and South Korea

Hong Kong is not the only country in the region that is looking to regulate the crypto industry. Singapore and South Korea have also taken steps to regulate the industry. Singapore has been proactive in its approach, establishing a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while protecting investors. This has made Singapore a major player in the crypto market, with several major exchanges based in the country.

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South Korea, on the other hand, has taken a more cautious approach. In 2017, the government banned initial coin offerings (ICOs), citing concerns about fraud and money laundering . However, the ban was lifted in 2018, and the government has since established a regulatory framework that requires exchanges to register with the Financial Services Commission. While this has led to a decrease in the number of exchanges in the country, it has also improved investor protection and reduced the risk of fraud.

Compared to Singapore and South Korea, Hong Kong’s new crypto regulation is more similar to Singapore’s approach. Both countries have taken a proactive approach to regulation, with a focus on promoting innovation while protecting investors. However, Hong Kong’s new licensing regime is more focused on institutional investors, while Singapore’s regulatory framework is designed to cater to a broader range of investors.

Possible Backlash from China

Finally, there is the question of whether China is likely to back out of the new Hong Kong crypto regulation. China has been cracking down on the crypto industry, with a ban on ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges in 2017. However, there are indications that China may be softening its stance. In 2019, President Xi Jinping stated that China should accelerate the development of blockchain technology. Moreover, in 2021, several Chinese companies announced plans to enter the crypto industry.

Despite these positive signs, there is still a risk that China may object to the new Hong Kong crypto regulation. China sees Hong Kong as part of its territory and may view the new regulation as a challenge to its authority. If this happens, it could lead to a deterioration of relations between Hong Kong and China, which would have far-reaching consequences for the industry and its investors.

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In conclusion, the new Hong Kong crypto regulation presents both opportunities and risks. While it is expected to attract more investors and create a favorable business environment, there is also the potential for increased market volatility, concentration of power, and government interference. Compared to Singapore and South Korea, Hong Kong’s approach is more focused on institutional investors, but shares a similar emphasis on promoting innovation and protecting investors. Whether China will back out of the new regulation remains to be seen, but there is a risk that it may object, leading to a deterioration of relations between Hong Kong and China.


Source: https://www.financialexpress.com/blockchain/risks-and-rewards-a-deep-dive-into-hong-kongs-crypto-licensing-regime/2998952/


Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author- “NFT: From Zero to Hero” and “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.

Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.

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