香港持续采取监管行动,并希望成为国际区块链中心 - 互联网金融门户 未央网

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香港持续采取监管行动,并希望成为国际区块链中心

6月27日,香港证券及期货事务监察委员会(SFC)在其年度报告中宣布,他们将“密切关注”加密货币和初始硬币发行(ICO)。根据监管机构的说法,这一新技术“伴随着风险”,这也是他们计划“在适当的时候进行干预”的原因。

事实上,香港证监会今年已出台了更为明确的监管政策,对当地的加密货币交易所、ICOs采取行动,并警告公众有关在加密货币市场上投资的潜在风险。与此同时,香港将继续培育由区块链驱动的金融、跨境计划,稳步赢得了区块链重要国际中心的声誉。

香港加密货币监管简史

香港作为中国的自治领土,与其他省份相比有着独立的政治制度,这对当地经济有着一定的影响。因此,香港并没有继承中国对加密货币的态度。许多与加密货币相关的企业在中国政府严格监管后不久就选择了迁往对加密货币更友好的香港。例如,当中国政府将对ICO的关注转化为行动时,中国的币看决定从北京搬到香港,同时世界最大的交易所币安也在香港开设了办事处——尽管最终它选择了以跨国的方式存在。

与此同时,大约在2017年9月份,香港政府对区块链表示了支持,并概述了与中国内地相比香港在加密货币技术上的积极立场。香港经济机构InvestHK的金融技术负责人Charles d’ Haussy认为:

区块链对我们来说是非常重要的。人们对ICO有些过分宣传了,在某些情况下,ICO会迅速攫取资金。但我们正在香港建设的是为新企业和现有企业提供基础设施,以确保技术和创新仍是推动金融业增长的关键因素。

跨境区块链计划

香港金融管理局(简称HKMA)在当时已与新加坡的的相关方合作,实施区块驱动的项目,以最大限度地扩大这两个全球金融中心之间的贸易和融资。到2017年11月,两方约有20家银行参与了该项目来缓解跨境交易的缓慢进程。

大约在同一时间,也就是2017年的11月,香港政府宣布计划创建一个基于区块链的贸易融资系统来作为中国“一带一路”计划(一个由中国的习近平主席在2013年发起中国和其全球合作伙伴之间贸易联系的全国性计划)的一部分。因此,香港金融服务和财政部长James Henry Lau声称,这项技术可以大大减少人力资源和贸易融资所需时间的投入,并“减少作弊的机会”。

“一带一路”的贸易主要是由中小企业进行的,因此区块链的分布式账本技术可以帮助减少中央机构和中间商的需求。

区块链在中国的影响力要更大,阿里巴巴旗下的蚂蚁金服于6月25日测试了其首笔区块链汇款,将其在香港的AliPayHK与菲律宾支付应用GCash之间进行了资金转账,后者是阿里巴巴与当地电信公司Globe Telecom的联合项目,整个交易只花了三秒钟。蚂蚁金融的首席执行官马云评论道:

使用区块链实现跨境汇款是我过去6个月最关心的项目之一。从香港开始,这项服务(AlipayHK)将在未来推广至世界其他地方。

就在测试一天后的6月26日,香港金融管理局与阿联酋金融市场监管机构——阿布扎比全球市场(ADGM)的金融服务监管局(FSRA)签署了金融科技合作协议,“就利用分布式账簿技术(DLT)建立跨境贸易融资网络的机会展开对话”,这进一步巩固了香港对于建立基于区块的国际贸易网络的兴趣,并逐步成为区块链的天堂。

香港证监会辖下的ICOs及交易所

大约在中国当局全面禁止ICOs的时候,香港监管机构采取了更为谨慎的做法。2017年9月,香港金融监管机构香港证监会就加密货币投资的潜在危险发出公开警告,指出ICO可能被视为“证券”。这意味着在公开寻求投资之前,ICO的相关方必须在监管机构登记。美国证券交易委员会(SEC)也表现出了类似的态度,该委员会委员Robert Jackson此前曾表示,他还没有见过非证券的ICO,因此在出售给美国投资者之前,项目方需要在证券交易委员会进行注册。

2018年2月,香港证监会就处理加密货币交易所和投资ICO的潜在风险发出了第二次公开警告,敦促投资者进行尽职调查,并再次提及证券的说法。香港证监会发誓将继续“监管”加密货币和ICO市场。负责人Ashley Alder表示,在对交易所和ICO供应商进行合规审查后,“市场专业人士”也应在确保代币发行和交易的合法性方面发挥自己的作用。

同样,香港证监会中介机构执行董事Julia Leung也称道:

如果投资者不能完全理解加密货币和ICOs的风险,或者他们不准备承受重大损失的话,他们就不应该进行投资。

但这一次,香港证监会暗示将采取更明确的行动。该监管机构称其已向7家设于香港或与香港有关的加密货币交易所发出警告信,称它们不应在没有许可证的情况下交易虚拟货币。根据监管机构的说法,作为回应,这些平台中的大多数要么证实没有提供此类服务,要么需要“立即采取整改措施”,让他们把某些币种从交易所转走。

此外,香港证监在今年3月采取了强硬的监管行动。该机构停止了Black Cell Technology的ICO,它认为这次发行是一个未经注册的集体投资计划(CIS)。根据证监会的说法,Black Cell Technology的ICO方案——告诉投资者他们的投资将资助移动应用的开发,并给予代币持有者持有公司股票的权利——构成了CIS,因为它相当于“证券”,这就意味着它必须在出售之前在监管机构进行注册。Black Cel Technology还被责令退还其香港投资者的投资。

4月13日,香港证监会中介机构执行董事Julia Leung继续对ICO的性质提出批评,称其实施的融资方式更适合风投基金。

Julia Leung强调,尽管香港证监会作为证券监管机构认为区块链等技术是有益的,但她也指出接受这项新技术需要具备一些普通用户通常缺乏的知识:

由于其中一些区块链项目的技术含量高、不透明,普通投资者很难选出有价值的项目,这类工作更适合风险投资基金等专业投资者。

Julia Leung接着说,事实上许多ICO“即使不是彻头彻尾的欺诈,也是可疑的。。。。。。”因为可以逃脱警察或证券监管机构的审查,他们的跨国性质以及加密货币的资产结构不属于任何监管机构的触碰范围,”同时她提到了日本以及韩国加密货币交易所的安全漏洞为“加密货币交易的风险”。

香港对加密货币的总体态度:不危险,也不感冒

4月30日,香港财经金融服务和财政部发布了一份关于洗钱和恐怖主义融资现状的报告,其中在任何一种金融犯罪中都没有特别涉及到加密货币,这使其风险处于“中等”水平。

该文件还提到金融稳定委员会、香港金融监管机构和执法机构正在共同研究与ICO和一般加密货币相关的风险:

虽然我们没有发现这些新开发的支付方式或商品存在的重大风险,但这是一个需要继续监测的快速发展的领域。

香港财经金融服务和财政部还认为,因为香港“是世界上最自由的经济体之一,它拥有活跃的外汇市场,没有资本管制。。。。。。因此,在那些人们可能试图规避汇率管制或寻求躲避高通货膨胀率的经济体中,风投并没有那么有吸引力。

亲自交易比特币并不流行。在香港本地,比特币的使用水平仍然可以忽略不计。

香港金融管理局似乎也对这项技术失去了兴趣,它放弃了发行中央银行数字货币(CBDC)的计划。5月30日,立法会财经事务及财政部代负责人Joseph Chen表示,虽然香港金融管理局在全球监控加密货币的发展,但“现阶段并无计划发行CBDC”。

Chan表示,由中国人民银行和香港金融管理局、国际清算银行组成的支付市场基础设施委员会委员会(CPMI)共同研究了CBDC的影响,他们发现“目前提出要实现CBDC的批发支付功能与当前的基础设施相似,而不是明显优于现有的基础结构。”

CBDC可向公众广泛提供,并作为一种安全、可靠和方便的支付工具,这就提出了需要解决的重要问题和挑战。

挖矿巨头的家园

虽然由于上述证监会的态度,在香港进行ICOs的前景变得更加模糊,但香港证券交易所似乎吸引了像Canaan Creative和比特大陆这样的大型挖矿公司,他们对在香港举行首次公开募股(IPO)表示出了兴趣。

据彭博社5月16日的报道称,中国比特币挖矿硬件制造商Canaan Creative证实,该公司正计划在香港交易所上市。据报道,Canaan可能会筹集到10亿美元,这将进一步加剧和挖矿巨头比特大陆之间竞争。

不过,它的竞争对手控制着比特币挖矿芯片市场75%的份额,它也可能会在香港进行IPO。比特大陆的首席执行长吴忌寒于6月7日,称,他对进行海外IPO持“开放”态度,其主要投资者包括摩根士丹利、德意志银行、瑞士信贷集团和招银国际金融有限公司。

On June 27, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) declared in their annual report that they will “keep a close watch” on crypto and Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). According to the watchdog, the new technology “comes with risks,” which is why they plan to “intervene when appropriate.”

Indeed, the SFC has stepped in with more definite regulatory policies this year, taking action against local crypto exchanges, ICOs and warning the public about potential risks related to investments in the crypto market. Meanwhile, Hong Kong continues to nurture financial, cross-border initiatives powered by blockchain, steadily gaining a reputation for being an important international blockchain hub.

Brief history of crypto regulation in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, being an autonomous territory of China, has a separate political system from the rest of the country, which has its effect on the local economy as well. Therefore, the city does not inherit the Chinese approach towards crypto, and the infamous ICO blanket ban in September 2017 bypassed Hong Kong. As a result, many crypto-related businesses chose to move to the more crypto-friendly Hong Kong soon after the crackdown. For instance, when Chinese authorities turned their concerns regarding ICOs into action, the major Chinese Bitcoin conference BitKan decided to move to Hong Kong from Beijing, and the world’s largest exchange, Binance, opened offices in the special administrative territory as well — although it opted for having a multinational presence in the end.

Around the same time, in September 2017, the government of Hong Kong showed its support for blockchain, outlining its considerably more positive position towards crypto in comparison to mainland China. Charles d’Haussy, the fintech lead at state economic agency InvestHK, argued:

“Blockchain is a very high priority for us. There is hype, and there is the fast grab of money with ICOs in some cases. But what we are looking at building here in Hong Kong is an infrastructure for new businesses and existing businesses, to make sure the technology and innovations remain a key enabler for financial sector growth.”

Cross-border blockchain initiatives

At that point, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), an agency which plays the role of the central bank in the region, had already partnered with its Singapore counterpart to run a blockchain-powered project to maximize trade and financing between the two global financial centers. By November 2017, around 20 banks from both countries enrolled in the project, wishing to ease the cross-border trading process.

Around the same time, in November, 2017, the government of Hong Kong announced its plan to create a blockchain-based trade financing system as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a national program launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to boost trade links between China and its global partners. Thus, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, James Henry Lau, claimed that the technology could significantly reduce the input of human resources and time that trade finance normally requires, and “reduce chances of fraud.”

“Trade along the Belt and Road is mostly conducted by small and medium-sized enterprises, so blockchain’s distributed ledger technology could help by cutting out the need for a central organization and middlemen.”

Blockchain has enjoyed more presence in the country, as on June 25, Alibaba subsidiary Ant Financial (formerly known as AliPay) tested its first blockchain remittances, sending a funds transfer between its AliPayHK app in Hong Kong and Filipino payment app GCash, its joint project with local telecoms company Globe Telecom. The transaction took just three seconds. Ant Financial’s CEO Jack Ma commented:

“Using blockchain to achieve cross-border remittances is one of my most concerned projects in the past six months. Starting from Hong Kong, this service (AlipayHK) will be brought to the rest of the world in the future.”

On June 26, just one day after, the HKMA signed a fintech collaboration agreement with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) — the UAE capital’s watchdog for the financial market — “to start a dialogue on the opportunity to build a cross-border trade finance network using distributed ledger technology (DLT),” further cementing its interest in establishing blockchain-based international trade networks and gradually moving towards becoming a blockchain haven.

ICOs and exchanges under the SFC’s control

Around the time when the Chinese authorities implemented a blanket ban on ICOs, Hong Kong regulators showed a more cautious approach. In September 2017, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), Hong Kong’s financial regulator, issued a public warning about potential dangers of crypto investments, pointing out that ICOs might be considered as ‘securities.’ That means that they have to be registered with the watchdog prior to publically seeking investments. Similar sentiment has been shown by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), whose commissioner Robert Jackson has previously argued that he hasn’t yet seen an ICO that wasn’t a security, and therefore needs to be registered with the SEC before being sold to U.S. investors.

In February 2018, the SFC issued a second public warning on the potential risks of dealing with crypto exchanges and investing in ICOs, urging investors to do their due diligence and mentioned securities yet again. The SFC vowed to keep “policing” cryptocurrency and ICO markets. Its CEO Ashley Alder stated 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.

Similarly, Julia Leung, the SFC's Executive Director of Intermediaries, argued:

"If investors cannot fully understand the risks of cryptocurrencies and ICOs or they are not prepared for a significant loss, they should not invest."

This time, however, the SFC hinted towards taking more definite action. Namely, the watchdog claimed it had sent warning letters to seven crypto exchanges either based in Hong Kong or connected to the city, stating that they should not trade virtual currencies without a licence. In response, according to the regulator, the majority of those platforms either confirmed that they did not provide such services or "took immediate rectification measures," i.e., removing certain coins from their exchanges.

Furthermore, in March, the SFC took hardline regulatory action. The agency halted Black Cell Technology’s ICO, arguing that the offering was an unregistered Collective Investment Scheme (CIS). According to the SFC, the Black Cell’s ICO scheme — telling investors that their investments would finance the development of the mobile app and give token holders the rights to equity shares of the company — constituted a CIS and thus a “security,” meaning that it had to be registered with the regulator prior to being sold. Black Cell was also ordered to refund its Hong Kong investors of their investments in the token.

On April 13, Julia Leung, the SFC's Executive Director of Intermediaries, continued criticizing the nature of ICOs, declaring that the type of fundraising they implement is better suited to venture capital funds.

Leung stressed that although the SFC in its role as a securities regulator considers technologies like blockchain to be beneficial, she also noted that embracing this new technology requires certain knowledge that casual users normally lack:

“[Because of] the highly technical content and opacity of some of these [blockchain] projects, it is hard for an average investor to pick winners, a job more suited for professional investors such as venture capital funds.”

Leung went on to say that, in reality, many ICOs are “dubious, if not downright frauds [...] [that] escape the scrutiny of the police or securities regulators because of their cross-border nature and the way the crypto assets are structured to fall outside any regulator’s perimeter,” referencing security breaches of crypto exchanges in Japan and South Korea as a “sharp reminder of the risks” of crypto trading.

Hong Kong’s general attitude towards cryptocurrencies: Not that dangerous, not that interesting

On April 30, the Hong Kong Financial Services and Treasury (FSTB) released a report on the status of money laundering (ML) and terrorism financing (TF) which concluded that virtual currencies are not particularly involved in either type of financial crime, giving it a “medium-low” level of risk.

The document also mentioned that the FSTB, Hong Kong financial regulators and law enforcement agencies are working together to look into the risks associated with ICOs and cryptocurrencies in general:

“While we have not found substantial risks in these newly developing payment methods or commodities, this is a rapidly developing area requiring continued monitoring.”

The FTSB also argued that, because Hong Kong “is one of the world’s freest economies with a vibrant foreign currency exchange market and no capital controls [...] VCs are therefore not as attractive as in economies where people may try to circumvent currency controls or seek refuge from a high inflation rate.”

“The exchange of Bitcoin in person is not popular [...] Domestically, the use of Bitcoin remains at a negligible level.”

The HKMA seemed to lose its interest in the technology as well, dropping its plan to release a central bank digital currency (CBDC). On May 30, Joseph Chan, the Acting Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury in the Legislative Council, stated that while HKMA is monitoring cryptocurrency development globally, they have “no plan to issue CBDC at this stage.”

According to Chan, the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI) — made up of members from the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) and the HKMA — and the Markets Committee (MC) of the Bank for International Settlements had jointly been studying the effects of CBDC and found out that “currently proposed implementations of CBDC for wholesale payments look broadly similar to, and not clearly superior to, existing infrastructures.”

“CBDC that could be made widely available to the general public and serve as an alternative safe, robust and convenient payment instrument raises important questions and challenges that would need to be addressed.”

Home to mining giants

Although the prospects of holding ICOs in Hong Kong has become more blurry due to the abovementioned SFC’s sentiments, Hong Kong’s stock exchange seems to attract mining players as large as Canaan Creative and Bitmain, who have expressed their interest in holding an Initial Public Offering (IPO) there.

On May 16, Bloomberg reported that Chinese Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer Canaan Creative, who holds around 15 percent of the Bitcoin chips and hardware equipment market and “a quarter of the world’s Bitcoin blockchain computing power,” confirmed that it was planning an IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Reportedly, Canaan could raise up to $1 billion, creating further competition for mining giant Bitmain.

Nevertheless, its rival, who controls around 75 percent of the Bitcoin mining chip market, might hold a Hong Kong IPO as well. On June 7, Bitmain’s CEO Jihan Wu claimed he is “open” to conducting an overseas IPO, with major backers appearing on the filing being Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and CMB International Capital Ltd.


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