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Hong Kong Crypto License Applications Exposed – Huobi not on the List

Last Updated September 25, 2023 1:29 PM
James Morales
Last Updated September 25, 2023 1:29 PM
  • The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has confirmed that only 5 firms have applied for its crypto license so far.
  • After the JPEX exchange lied about its application, the SFC said it would disclose a list of applicants.
  • Despite stating their intention to do so, major exchanges like HBX (formerly Huobi) and OKX have yet to submit an application.

Last week, the JPEX crypto exchange suspended its Hong Kong operations amid a string of arrests and fraud charges. According to authorities, the company lied about applying to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) for a Virtual Asset Trading Platform VATP license.

In a bid to prevent future confusion over which platforms the regulator has or has not sanctioned, on Monday, September 25, the SFC released a list of VATP applicants. But a number of major global exchanges are absent, including those like Huobi that have stated their intention to apply.

JPEX Investigation Accelerates SFC Disclosure

In a statement  released on Monday, the SFC said “the JPEX incident highlights the risks of dealing with unregulated VATPs and the need for proper regulation to maintain market confidence.”

“It also shows that dissemination of information to the investing public […] can be further enhanced,” the press release added.

Going forward, the Hong Kong regulator said it would publish lists of licensed VATPs and exchanges required by law to cease operations in the territory. 

Additionally, “in light of public demand,” the SFC said it would disclose a list of VATP applicants.

According to the SFC website , only two companies have currently received approval to operate a crypto exchange: OSL Digital Securities Limited and Hash Blockchain Limited.

Meanwhile, during the press conference  on Monday morning, the SFC said that HKVAX, HKBitEx, Hong Kong BGE Limited and Victory Fintech Company Limited have also applied for the VATP license. 

Major Exchanges Still Haven’t Applied For Hong Kong License

Considering that only 2 crypto exchanges have secured the sought-after permit from the SFC, it may come as a surprise that major platforms have yet to apply for a VATP license. Nevertheless, several exchanges have stated their intention to do so.

In March, for instance, OKX announced  its intention to register under the new licensing regime. Shortly after, Bitget made a similar announcement. 

Further complicating things, in May, Huobi (which recently rebranded as HTX) said  it had made an “application notice” to the SFC. 

Yet, nearly 4 months since the regulator opened applications on June 1, the exchange appears not to have formally submitted its full application.

In the meantime, few exchanges have offered much insight into their application progress. Rather Vaguely, Jimmy Lai, the Global Chief Commercial Officer of OKX, recently stated  that the exchange is on track to submit its application to the SFC “next year.” But he didn’t give any specific deadline for the planned submission.

Notably, some of the world’s largest exchanges have remained silent on the matter. To date, Binance, Coinbase and Kraken have yet to declare whether they intend to apply for a VATP license. Yet, with the SFC increasingly willing to crack down on unregistered crypto firms, if they want to continue serving customers in Hong Kong, they will need to move soon or face being blacklisted by the regulator.

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