Hong Kong Disappoints With Official Bitcoin Warning
There was much hope that Hong Kong will not turn against Bitcoin as China, and more recently Taiwan, did. But that may have been more delusional rather than optimistic. Hong Kong seems to have followed suit by issuing an official warning against investing in Bitcoin. It may have just been a warning and not an outright ban, but if history is anything to go by then this may be the start of an anti-Bitcoin drive.
Waning Asian Sentiment
It has been a tumultuous month for Bitcoiners in Southeast Asia. China is the leader in the Asian Bitcoin scene with its large number of users and ability for the Bitcoin community to almost instantly influence prices of the cryptocurrency. When Chinese sentiment turned against Bitcoin in early December 2013, Bitcoin prices plummeted and halved within days of the Chinese ban on banks and third party payment gateways.
Once the dust settled, Asian Bitcoiners pinned their hopes on Taiwan and Hong Kong. These two island nations are commercial hubs in southeast Asia although not entirely independent of China. By the end of December 2013, both Taiwan and Hong Kong were somewhat silent about the Bitcoin issue and this was hoped to be a sign of a permissive rather than prohibitory stance on the cryptocurrency.
The excitement of Bitcoiners in China and surrounds was palpable. Bitcoin prices rose again. Bitcoin ATM manufacturer Robocoin announced that it was sending its machines off to Taiwan and Hong Kong, further opening up the Asian market. However, Taiwan suddenly turned against Bitcoin which was not entirely unexpected. It issued an official warning at the start of the new year and recently stated that it would not approve Bitcoin ATM’s in the country.
Hong Kong was the final glimmer of hope – but it seems this may have been premature.
Yes To ATMs But Now A Warning
First Hong Kong said that it will not oppose Bitcoin ATMs. Authorities there viewed it as a vending machine rather than an automated bank teller as traditional ATMs are seen. This was good news for Robocoin and local Bitcoiners. The optimism extended beyond Hong Kong’s borders as the island nation is popular in Asia for its business-friendly environment.
However, Bitcoiners may now have something to worry about. Today, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Caejer Chan Ka-keung, issued an official warning to the public stressing that the prices of Bitcoin are largely based on speculation and can fluctuate drastically. This is not an unusual warning from a government official and has been heard across the globe from different nations.
What is significant though is that these official warnings tend to signal something more sinister in time, especially in southeast Asia. China has set the modus operandi or sorts. First come warnings. Then come restrictions on financial services providers. And the screws tighten further just short of an outright ban on the cryptocurrency. The restrictions alone practically shut down Bitcoin trading in some countries and discourages newcomers to the cryptocurrency scene.
So is Hong Kong going to follow suit to its counterparts like China and more recently Taiwan? It may be too early to say but there is no doubt many Bitcoiners who are now nervous. As the noose tightens, it may be time for Bitcoiners in China and surrounds to look further south to nations like Singapore. The tiny country not only stated that it will not interfere with Bitcoin in the country but has even announced ways in which it will tax the system – an otherwise positive stance from a government.