In a bid to circumvent China’s strict crypto regulations, an increasing number of mainland Chinese users are flocking to unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) shops in Hong Kong to purchase cryptocurrencies, according to the latest report.
These brick-and-mortar stores offer a convenient and discreet way for customers to buy digital assets with cash without revealing their identities or the origin of their funds.
With Hong Kong’s current laws and regulations in a regulatory gray area regarding offline cryptocurrency exchanges, these OTC shops have thrived without stringent oversight.
Crypto Trading Flourishes In Hong Kong Amid China’s Ban
Despite the Chinese government’s ban on crypto transactions and restrictions on overseas exchanges serving onshore clients, crypto trading is legal in Hong Kong. The city aims to position itself as a global digital assets trading hub, attracting both local and international investors.
The surge in demand from mainland Chinese visitors, coupled with the ambiguous regulatory status of OTC shops, has contributed to their flourishing presence in Hong Kong’s popular tourism and shopping districts.
The appeal of these OTC shops lies in their ability to facilitate large-volume cryptocurrency transactions with minimal regulatory checks. Unlike online exchanges that operate under tight licensing rules, OTC stores provide a more accessible avenue for users to convert their fiat currencies into digital assets.
Before the China-Hong Kong border reopening in February, mainland Chinese customers accounted for a small percentage of OTC shop clientele. However, the relaxation of travel restrictions has significantly increased, with mainland users now constituting over 50% of customers at some OTC shops.
Although Hong Kong implemented new regulations requiring online cryptocurrency platforms to obtain licenses in June, OTC shops largely remain outside the purview of the city’s Securities and Futures Commission.
While some shops, such as OTCXpert, have implemented a “know your customer” process, requesting identification from first-time customers, many operate without identification requirements, advertising quick and hassle-free transactions.
As mainland Chinese customers seek ways to navigate China’s crypto ban and capital controls, Hong Kong’s unregulated OTC shops offer an attractive solution.
However, the lack of oversight and proximity to mainland China present challenges for regulatory authorities. While some industry players welcome increased regulation to promote the development and legitimacy of the sector, a clear guide from government regulators regarding OTC shops is necessary.
Related Reading | India’s RBI Pushes Directs Lenders Towards Digital Rupee