Hong Kong to Put Initial Coin Offerings Under a Magnifying Glass

Hong Kong's government may look to regulate ICOs, according to a statement by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.

The pressure has never been higher to regulate ICOs as many countries around the world have grown skeptical about them. First we saw China and South Korea taking action against them, and then the United States and the European Central Bank started to break ground on new legislation focused on preventing fraud.

Now, Hong Kong—a special economic zone of China that has a proud history since its days in the British Empire of maintaining one of the most laissez-faire economies in the world—is considering looking at ICOs for potential regulations.

"We see that at least one of the jurisdictions in Asia has introduced sandbox for ICOs, so it is for us to see how we look at ICOs and whether there is any regulatory gap. We will be looking at this to make sure that we do not stifle useful fintech innovations and yet we have to protect the investors, to make sure that the fintech developments will be on very healthy ground,''

said James Lau—Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury—when speaking at Hong Kong’s Fintech Week today.

Just like the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission sees ICOs as securities and intends to regulate them as such.

As a special economic area of China, Hong Kong has not experienced the effects of the mainland’s ICO ban and likely won’t have the same attitude when it comes to these financial instruments. Hong Kong’s primary focus will probably be that of creating accountability in the fundraising process.

This isn’t the only special zone in China that has snubbed the ICO ban. Macau, a region known for its wild casinos, is home to an ICO that plans to raise $500 million.

The ICO, by Dragon Corp., will use the funds it raises to build a massive new hotel that it plans to complete by 2019 using contractors from Norway.

Although Hong Kong is breaking character by looking to regulate ICOs, it’s very likely that the city’s regulators will not strike them harshly. We can expect to see policies that reflect the relaxed attitude that they usually have towards other facets of their economy.