Hong Kong’s financial regulator vowed to keep “policing” cryptocurrency and ICO markets Friday during a fresh warning to potential investors.
In an announcement from the territory’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), CEO Ashley Alder said that following a vetting of exchanges and ICO providers for compliance, “market professionals” should also play their role in ensuring the legality of token issuance and exchange. This echoes similar sentiments from US regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December.
“We will continue to police the market and enforce when necessary,” he commented. “But we are also urging market professionals to do proper gatekeeping to prevent frauds or dubious fundraising and to assist us in ensuring compliance with the law.”
Hong Kong has sought to strike a balance between permissiveness and investor protection regarding cryptocurrency and ICO regulation.
In contrast to mainland China, where crypto trading and ICOs are both de facto banned, lawmakers have chosen a middle-of-the-road approach, with the SFC issuing warnings instead of restrictions prior to China’s ban in September 2017.
The result has been a burgeoning crypto startup scene in Hong Kong, with major international crypto exchange Bitfinex among the best-known residents. Binance, currently the world’s second largest crypto exchange by trading volume, has also been based there, despite CEO Zhao Changpeng opting for a multi-country presence.
As China seeks to close the net on remaining exchange loopholes, the outlook for Hong Kong meanwhile remains broadly similar to before, the SFC hints.
“If investors cannot fully understand the risks of cryptocurrencies and ICOs or they are not prepared for a significant loss, they should not invest,” Julia Leung, the organization’s executive director of intermediaries continued in the announcement, underscoring the responsibility of investors themselves.
“Investors who store their fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies with unregulated cryptocurrency exchanges should be aware of the risks of hacking and misappropriation of assets.”