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In a groundbreaking decision, the Hong Kong High Court recognized cryptocurrency as property, marking a significant milestone for the future of digital assets in the city and beyond.

The verdict, which centered on a liquidation case involving the now-defunct Hong Kong-based crypto exchange Gatecoin, brings legal certainty and confidence to crypto-related businesses in the city, solidifying its position as a regional hub for the burgeoning industry.

Gatecoin, a catalyst for change

Gatecoin, one of Hong Kong’s first cryptocurrency exchanges, was ordered to wind down in 2019 following a tumultuous six-year history, including losing $21.4 million worth of clients’ assets in a 2016 hack. 

The liquidation case was a legal battleground for the court’s decision on whether cryptocurrencies could be considered property and subsequently put into a trust. 

The ruling, delivered by Justice Linda Chan, deemed cryptocurrencies as property and legally capable of being held in a trust, setting a precedent for similar cases in the future.

Aligning with global counterparts

Hong Kong’s recognition of cryptocurrencies as property aligns it with other common law jurisdictions, such as the United States. 

This decision further distinguishes the city from mainland China, where cryptocurrencies are not widely protected. 

Hong Kong’s efforts to establish itself as a regional crypto hub have recently received official approval from Beijing officials, highlighting the “one country, two systems” arrangement that allows the city to maintain some autonomy.

Practical implications and future prospects

The High Court’s decision carries profound implications for the crypto industry in Hong Kong, impacting taxation, asset management, and regulatory oversight. 

Legal clarity will be beneficial for devising trust arrangements and for inheritance issues related to passing digital assets from the deceased to beneficiaries. 

As Hong Kong continues to attract crypto firms, the city is poised to become a key player in the global crypto revolution, potentially rivaling established hubs like Singapore and Dubai.

Hong Kong’s crypto future

In a serendipitous turn of events, the Hong Kong High Court’s landmark decision coincided with the web 3 festival, which celebrates the intersection of technology, blockchain, and digital assets.

This year’s festival, held in Hong Kong from April 12 to 15, attracted many officials, prominent speakers, industry leaders, and tech enthusiasts from around the globe.

As a nexus for the crypto community, the Festival gave Hong Kong the perfect stage to demonstrate its dedication to nurturing and promoting digital asset innovation. 

With the city taking proactive measures to draw in crypto firms and position itself as a regional hub, the future of cryptocurrency in Hong Kong appears bright.

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