Hong Kong’s financial regulator is expected to create a dedicated whitelist of tokens that retail users will be allowed to trade.
The new token whitelist was proposed on Wednesday by Julia Leung, the CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) during a panel discussion in Hong Kong. Leung did not reveal which specific tokens she had in mind for the proposed whitelist, but she said her agency will now seek public opinion about guardrails for retail crypto trading.
As a starting point, it is expected that at least bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) will make the list, given that there are already ETFs approved in the city that are backed by the two cryptocurrencies.
“Virtual assets have in the past year gone from peak to low [price] levels. The good thing is that when the froth is taken out from the system as platforms and some tokens collapsed, it focuses investors and sellers’ minds on investor protection,” Leung was quoted by Reuters as saying during the discussion.
She added that SFC will start accepting applications for licenses under its new virtual asset service provider (VSAP) regime in mid 2024. From that time on, all crypto exchanges operating in the city will be required to hold a license, or risk fines or jail sentences.
During the discussion, Leung also noted that tokenized real assets, including tokenized stocks, will fall under the jurisdiction of her agency.
Hong Kong positioning as crypto hub
The move to create a dedicated list of approved tokens for retail users comes after Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan as recently as this week reiterated an ambition for the city to become an international crypto hub.
“As certain crypto exchanges collapsed one after another, Hong Kong became a quality standing point for digital asset corporates,” Chan said at a Web3-focused seminar in Hong Kong. He added that Hong Kong has a robust regulatory framework that “matches international norms and standards,” but also prohibits “free-riders.”
The comments from the Financial Secretary came after SFC’s Leung in November last year provided further evidence that Hong Kong is serious about its crypto ambitions by giving the greenlight for retail access to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track crypto futures.
“[The SFC is] actively looking to set up a system to authorize ETFs that provide mainstream virtual assets with appropriate investor guardrails,” Leung said at the time.
Shortly after, two ETFs – CSOP Asset Management’s Bitcoin Futures ETF and Ether Futures ETF – debuted in Hong Kong as the first of their kind in the city.