Hong Kong Launches Crypto Public Education Campaign. Should the United States Do the Same?

On Jan. 29, two Hong Kong market authorities, the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau (FSTB) and the Investor Education Centre (IEC) joined together to launch a massive educational campaign on cryptocurrencies on the Chinese island.

The campaign will give emphasis on the risks associated with initial coin offering (ICO) investments and cryptocurrency trading.

The campaign will advertise across all forms of media. They will even place ads in public places, such as metro stations, in print, and over the in a drive to reach even the most technically inept of its citizens.

“The increase in media coverage and hype around ICOs and ‘cryptocurrencies,’ such as Bitcoin, has aroused public interest. However, the public might use these as speculative tools without a full understanding of their nature and potential risks,” FSTB Secretary Joseph Chan said.

“Through this series of public education initiatives, the government aims to provide the public with a correct and comprehensive understanding of ICOs and ‘cryptocurrencies,’ so that they can thoroughly assess the risks before making transactions or investment decisions.”

The IEC has made ICO and cryptocurrency-related resources available to the public on their website, called the Chin Family.

Chairman of the IEC Dr. Kelvin Wong also had negative comments about crypto.

“ICOs and ‘cryptocurrencies’ are high-risk products that are not suitable for everyone. ‘Cryptocurrencies’ are not actual currencies, but a type of virtual commodity,” Wong said. “They are not backed by any physical commodity nor by the issuers and are not recognized as a medium of payment or electronic currency.

“‘Cryptocurrencies’ are highly speculative and are associated with various kinds of risks. Their prices may be susceptible to significant fluctuations due to speculative activities. Investors may suffer significant monetary losses as a result of the volatile prices.”

Chinese hostility

Authorities in mainland China continue to be hostile towards cryptocurrency investments. However, the situation is different in the independently governed Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is home to some of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. Many left mainland China to take shelter themselves on the autonomous island in order to rebuild their businesses after a government crackdown.

The campaign follows recent warnings from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which said that tokens issued through ICOs could be regulated as securities. The financial regulator also stated last month that only licensed firms are allowed to offer Bitcoin futures and other cryptocurrency instruments.

So far, there are no previews of the Hong Kong advertisements, but they will begin this week. A TV campaign is scheduled for March and it will be joined by radio ads and videos on social media.