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Hong Kong launches public education campaign on cryptocurrency and ICO risks

The government of Hong Kong has launched an education campaign to make people aware of the risks associated with Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies.

The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB), in collaboration with the Investor Education Centre (IEC), a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), launched the public education campaign on January 29.

"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 full understanding of their nature and potential risks. 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 Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Joseph Chan, said.

In September 2017, the SFC issued a statement explaining that digital tokens may be subject to securities laws of Hong Kong depending on the facts and circumstances of the ICO. Later in December, it cautioned investors of the risks associated with Bitcoin futures contracts and other cryptocurrency-related investment products.

"ICOs and 'cryptocurrencies' are high-risk products that are not suitable for everyone.'Cryptocurrencies' are not actual currencies, but a type of virtual commodity. They are not backed by any physical commodity nor by the issuers and are not recognised 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,” IEC Chairman Kelvin Wong, said.

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