As Protests In Hong Kong Surge, So Does Demand For Cryptocurrency


Thousands take part in a second day of sit-in protest at the airport in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong is in its ninth week of demonstrations that began in response to a proposed extradition law but have expanded to include other grievances and demands for more democratic freedoms. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hong Kong has been engulfed in a series of protests as tensions over its relationship with Mainland China have been inflamed by recent proposed extradition legislation to the Mainland. Protests have continued for a tenth straight weekend and at the arrival hall of the International Airport, a sit-in of protesters dressed in black now greets visitors.

In many ways, Hong Kong has become a futuristic 21st century site for protests. Protesters are using lasers to shine through tear gas and to try to confuse and distract police officers on the other side. Telegram was attacked by Chinese servers in a denial-of-service attempt, as protesters using the app to organize found themselves monitored and arrested even if they were only virtual participants. And young protesters refused to use a centralized form of payment (Octopus) because they feared leaving a trail of data for the Hong Kong government to be able to tag who was participating in protests or not, all in the backdrop of a dystopian fear of facial recognition.

Cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin were built to address several of the most pressing points in the Hong Kong protests, which are at the forefront of what it means to protest against a state equipped with all of the sophisticated technologies of the 21st century and the unrestrained ability to weaponize those capabilities against its citizenry.

Many cryptocurrencies are moving towards enabling transactional anonymity, and a host of tools exist to make it easier to anonymize transactions. Monero and Zcash were built with those principles in mind — a trait built in foresight for an age where dissidents fear being recognized by a central entity. This has led to a premium in cryptocurrencies traded with Hong Kong dollars.

Initially, as protests broke out around mid-June, Bitcoin traded at about a $160 USD premium on TideBit, a Hong Kong based exchange. As protests have worn on, that premium still persists, with the latest price of Bitcoin on TideBit at $11477.34 USD, about $80 USD higher than the current rate on Coinmarketcap. This is not altogether uncommon on Asian exchanges, especially ones that are trading in uncommon currency pairs which may face some capital controls (Korean-based exchanges that trade in Korean Won, for example, typically see large price premiums from the average global rate) — yet it does show a continuing demand for Bitcoin in Hong Kong.

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