The decision strikes a blow to all Huobi users, some of whom will moreover be prevented from withdrawing their tokens for as long as 36 hours if the exchange's assessment system judges them to be at particularly high risk. Huobi has said the move forms part of its attempt to “gradually introduce a number of risk control strategies encompassing a larger section of users." It adds that it expects the delay to "effectively avoid user losses caused by the inflow of risky funds and protect the safety of users' assets."
Notably, Huobi had been implementing a narrower version of this measure since August last year, when it first imposed a token withdrawal delay of up to 36 hours on specific, higher-risk users.
The new, more comprehensive initiative seems to align squarely with Beijing's ongoing and multi-pronged crackdown on the country's cryptocurrency investors, which has recently targeted the mining sector, banking services and crypto's online footprint. In response to these restrictions, a large volume of crypto trading in the country has shifted to the OTC market, which is relatively unregulated and ensures that the transfer of fiat currency does not take place directly on exchanges' trading desks.
High levels of activity on the OTC market during regulatory clampdowns are an established pattern in China: back in 2017, when Beijing first took action against crypto exchanges, investors had similarly adapted by making the shift to OTC trades. Huobi itself first rolled out its OTC service in Nov. 2017 amid a series of ever-tighter restrictions on crypto trading in the country.
Today's news goes against some analysts' predictions, who had expected Beijing to take a lighter-touch approach to OTC trading given that the sector is judged to pose lower capital flight risks than regular exchanges. Yet the South China Morning Post today reported that the OTC sector is perceived by the authorities to be a gateway for both capital outflows and money laundering, as well as a spur to high volatility in the crypto markets.
Late last month, Huobi updated its user agreement document, banning crypto derivatives trading for all existing customers in China and a host of other jurisdictions. Earlier in June, the platform had already intervened to prevent new users from trading derivatives in parallel to reducing the allowable trading leverage from 125x to less than 5x.