• 19 June, 2024
Crypto Exchanges News

Major Crypto Exchanges Withdraw from Hong Kong Over Regulatory Hurdles

Hong Kong’s vision of establishing itself as a global hub for virtual assets has encountered a significant roadblock. Several leading cryptocurrency exchanges, initially enthusiastic about the city’s potential, are pulling back in the face of stringent new regulations implemented by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). The SFC mandated that all virtual asset trading platforms (VATPs) submit license applications by February 29, 2024, or face closure within three months.

Source: Hong Kong SFC

While there was an initial flurry of applications, with 24 platforms seeking licenses, over a quarter (more than seven) have since withdrawn their applications. This exodus includes heavyweights of the industry like OKX and Huobi HK, who have expressed concerns about the demanding nature of the new regulatory framework. 

Source: Hong Kong SFC

The new regulations impose significant compliance costs on exchanges. This includes stringent Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) procedures, as well as robust cybersecurity measures. 

Harvest Eyes Mainland Investor Access for Hong Kong Crypto ETFs

A particularly contentious regulation prohibits exchanges from offering services to residents of mainland China. This stipulation cuts off a substantial user base for many platforms, especially those with a strong presence in China. Industry analysts believe this restriction significantly diminishes the profitability potential for major exchanges in Hong Kong.

The recent withdrawal of Gate.HK, the local arm of the global exchange Gate.io, further exemplifies the challenges posed by the new regulations. Gate.HK cited a need for a substantial overhaul of their platform to comply with Hong Kong’s rigorous standards. A Gate.HK spokesperson said,

“To comply with regulations, we’ve stopped registering new users and taking deposits. We’ll shut down operations by May 28th.”

The withdrawal of these major players is poised to reshape the landscape of cryptocurrency trading in Hong Kong. Investors should be prepared for the imminent closure of unlicensed platforms, which must cease operations by May 31, 2024. This regulatory tightening reflects Hong Kong’s desire to exert greater control over the crypto market, prioritizing investor protection over unfettered market access.

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