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  • L Higgins and M Bacina

Hong Kong to consult on regulation for OTC Crypto Venues

Updated: Feb 16

In a move towards enhancing investor protection and fostering a secure environment for virtual assets, Hong Kong has announced plans to introduce a regulatory framework for over-the-counter (OTC) crypto venues. The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) revealed their intention in a recent blog post to commence a consultation process "very soon," covering a wide array of virtual asset outlets, including both physical shops and online platforms.

The decision to regulate OTC venues stems from concerns raised by the FSTB regarding their involvement in fraudulent activities. The FSTB noted instances where these venues played a role in misleading investors and channeling funds to unlicensed VA trading platforms. As a response, the FSTB deems it necessary to bring OTC venues under regulatory oversight to curb such fraudulent practices.

This move follows Hong Kong's commitment to assisting the development of the virtual asset ecosystem. In October 2023, the FSTB expressed its desire to regulate the crypto sector, culminating in the establishment of a licensing regime for crypto companies in the previous year. To continue operations beyond June this year, crypto companies must obtain approval under the Virtual Asset Service Providers regime, reinforcing the government's commitment to a regulated and secure blockchain environment.

In addition to OTC venues, Hong Kong is also exploring regulatory measures for stablecoin issuers. The proposed regulatory system aims to mandate fiat-backed stablecoin issuers to obtain a license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This further underscores Hong Kong's "multi-pronged approach" to comprehensive oversight across various facets of the blockchain ecosystem:

We will continue to use a multi-pronged approach comprising comprehensive public education, enhancing enforcement and timely information dissemination, to facilitate the robust and responsible development of the market.

The move towards regulatory clarity in Hong Kong aligns with global efforts to establish a secure and transparent framework for the evolving blockchain landscape. In conjunction with parallel movements by Securities and Futures Commission (e.g. licensing and tokenisation), Hong Kong is taking proactive steps to protect investors and create a conducive environment for the responsible and continued growth of the blockchain ecosystem.

By Luke Higgins and Michael Bacina


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