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Hong Kong woos mainland China crypto firms in push to bolster finance hub status

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HONG KONG: After years of bankers quitting Hong Kong amid a China security crackdown and tight COVID-19 curbs, the city is rolling out the red carpet to a finance sector tarnished by events elsewhere in a bid to bolster its status as a finance hub - cryptocurrencies.While scandals and high-profile bankruptcies have prompted some governments to distance themselves from the cryptocurrency industry, Hong Kong is pulling out all the stops to court mainland China crypto companies to rebase in the city.

Mainland China banned cryptocurrency trading in 2021.Top government officials, such as Hong Kong chief executive John Lee, are touting their support and the city is scheduled to hold 100 crypto-related conferences and lavish parties through April.The Hong Kong government "is very serious about building an international virtual asset centre", said Xiao Feng, chairman of Hong Kong crypto exchange HashKey, which saw 13,000 people attend the first day of its Hong Kong Web3 Festival, the biggest conference of the month, on Wednesday (Apr 12).HashKey received a license to operate in Hong Kong last November, making it one of two licensed crypto exchanges in the city besides rival exchange OSL.

According to Xiao, many in the crypto industry thought Hong Kong would inevitably adopt the same regulations as mainland China.

But he said that the government is now trying to emphasise Hong Kong practices different laws from mainland China under the "One Country, Two Systems" framework.To be sure, many remain sceptical on Hong Kong's promise of a stable regulatory regime on cryptocurrencies.

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