Chinese Crypto Investors Using Hong Kong OTC: Finance Times

In the bustling urban areas of Hong Kong, a thriving market for physical cryptocurrency trading stores has emerged, drawing the attention of users from mainland China. According to a report by the Financial Times, these specialized stores have evaded regulatory scrutiny, making them particularly attractive to Chinese investors navigating a highly regulated environment.

Hong Kong, known for its major cryptocurrency exchanges and global trading volumes, has implemented formal regulations on cryptocurrency trading for individual investors since June 2011. However, these regulations primarily target trading platforms and do not extend to over-the-counter (OTC) exchanges, creating a regulatory gap that some stores have taken advantage of.

The Financial Times reports that mainland Chinese investors are increasingly utilizing OTC exchanges in Hong Kong to exploit this gray area. In fact, more than half of the users purchasing cryptocurrencies on one OTC exchange are believed to be from mainland China. Some of these stores offer transactions up to HK$100,000 without the need for KYC (identity verification) procedures, such as Coinhero, which recently acquired the ATM chain of the former industry giant, Genesis Block.

Crypto HK, an OTC crypto trading firm with two branches in Hong Kong, has seen a significant surge in its mainland Chinese customer base. According to the FT report, mainland customers now account for nearly half of Crypto HK’s clientele, a substantial increase from less than 5% reported in February of this year.

The appeal of these OTC exchanges lies in their streamlined processes and relaxed verification requirements. Stores like Coiner.HK, with three locations in Hong Kong, boast slogans such as “Apply in as little as 10 minutes” and highlight benefits such as no fees, instant quotes, and a dedicated concierge team to assist customers throughout the transaction process.

While the Hong Kong government has been proactive in implementing regulations to ensure investor protection, the absence of oversight on OTC exchanges leaves a gap that is being capitalized upon by these stores. To strengthen investor protection further, the government is working on introducing a licensing system for trading platforms, but it remains to be seen whether this will address the regulatory gap present in OTC exchanges.

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