Tightening Noose: Hong Kong joins global trend in strengthening cryptocurrency regulations

Hong Kong has joined a global initiative, alongside influential jurisdictions such as the European Union, the United States, and Singapore, to tighten regulations on cryptocurrencies.

In a global trend, Hong Kong has joined forces with 16 other jurisdictions, including the European Union, the United States, South Korea, and Singapore, in tightening regulations around cryptocurrencies. The move comes in response to a series of meltdowns in the crypto sector and aims to enhance consumer protection in this volatile market.

A recent report by blockchain analytics firm TRM Labs reveals that in 2023, almost half of the 17 jurisdictions that tightened cryptocurrency regulations focused on increasing consumer protection measures. TRM Labs studied 21 jurisdictions globally, with the ones reinforcing protection accounting for 80% of the total exposure to cryptocurrencies.

The cryptocurrency market experienced significant turbulence in 2022, marked by the collapse of major platforms like TerraUSD and FTX, resulting in a market rout that wiped out trillions of dollars in value.

Singapore considered an early adopter of crypto regulation, introduced rules in November 2023 aimed at curbing retail speculation in cryptocurrencies. The nation also finalized regulations for stablecoins. South Korea and Australia similarly increased scrutiny of the cryptocurrency sector during the same period.

In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) escalated its enforcement actions against crypto firms in 2023. The House Financial Services Committee also advanced bills in July to establish a federal regulatory framework for the crypto market, with specific attention to stablecoins.

Notably, almost half of the jurisdictions that tightened crypto regulations in 2023 focused on enhancing consumer protection, according to TRM Labs. International organizations, including the G20, the Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Stability Board, the International Monetary Fund, and the International Organization of Securities Commissions, have outlined global frameworks and policy recommendations for regulating cryptocurrencies.

Hong Kong, which announced a major initiative in October 2022 to support the virtual asset sector and become a global hub for such businesses, has implemented a mandatory licensing regime for centralized crypto exchanges accepting retail investors. Eleven companies, including OKX, one of the largest exchanges by trading volume, have submitted license applications.

In December, Hong Kong proposed rules for stablecoins issuers, aiming to ban unlicensed companies from selling stablecoins to the city’s retail investors through regulated channels and actively marketing their tokens in the region. Experts have deemed these rules as “extremely challenging” for stablecoins issuers, potentially deterring major players like Tether and USDC from entering the city.

As global regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrencies continue to evolve, Hong Kong’s proactive stance reflects its commitment to fostering a secure and regulated environment for participants in the virtual asset sector.