Yuan stablecoin team reportedly arrested
On May 31, local news outlet PANewsLab reported that the developers for the offshore Chinese yuan and Hong Kong dollar stablecoin issuer CNHC had lost contact or had been taken away by law enforcement officials. A photo shows what appears to be an empty office building at CNHC’s Shanghai division with the following message posted:
“The building’s assets have been seized by law enforcement; vandalism is prohibited.”
In March, CNHC raised $10 million in its Series A, led by KuCoin Ventures, Circle and IDG Capital. The team said back then that it planned to use the funds for “expansion in the Asia Pacific Region” and was in the process of moving its headquarters from the Cayman Islands to Hong Kong.
The reported move appears to be part of a wider crackdown on cryptocurrencies by Chinese authorities. On May 24, Asia Express reported that tokens of Singaporean inter-blockchain communications protocol Multichain had plunged 30% on a delayed backend upgrade and rumors of Chinese police arrest of its core developers.
Though Multichain says that it is still operational, it stated on June 1 that it is still “unable to contact CEO Zhaojun and obtain the necessary server access for maintenance,” and as a result, the protocol would need to suspend a number of affected cross-chain services.
In the past two days, the Multichain protocol has experienced multiple issues due to unforeseeable circumstances. The team has done everything possible to maintain the protocol running, but we are currently unable to contact CEO Zhaojun and obtain the necessary server access for…
— Multichain (Previously Anyswap) (@MultichainOrg) May 31, 2023
Hong Kong opens up retail crypto licensing
Despite censorship and bans in mainland China, the adoption of cryptocurrency exchange regulation in Hong Kong has proceeded as scheduled. On May 31, the Hong Kong Virtual Asset Consortium was formed to approve the top 30 cryptocurrencies by market cap for listing and to conduct quarterly reviews of registered digital asset exchanges to ensure compliance with licensing regulations that took effect on June 1.
On another front, according to a research report published by multichain wallet provider BitKeep, notable crypto projects such as Avalanche, Conflux, EOS and Fantom have all joined Hong Kong’s Web3Hub ecosystem fund unveiled in April. With a budget of $10 million, the fund will incentivize Web3 projects to set up subsidiaries or headquarters in the special administrative region of China. The fund is headed by Paul Chan Mo-Po, financial secretary of Hong Kong SAR.
Despite the growing traction, BitKeep researchers reminded that HK regulations remain strict for the time being:
The new regulations clearly limit the types of tokens that can be traded and the types of services that exchanges can provide. Cryptocurrencies must meet the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) strict regulations, which emphasize that only non-security tokens can be traded, have a history of at least 12 months, and the token has been included in two cryptocurrency indices.
In addition, exchanges are prohibited from providing wealth management products, as well as the provision of lending and deposit services, along with derivative transactions such as perpetual crypto contracts. “However, the regulator recognizes the importance of derivatives trading in the encrypted market and will conduct further research and consideration,” researchers noted.
WeChat allows BTC price quotes
As of June 1, WeChat, China’s largest social media app with over 1 billion users, has indexed Bitcoin price quotes in its search queries. The move is significant, considering that China has pretty much banned all crypto-related activities such as exchanges, crypto mining, and fiat-crypto on-ramping since 2021.
However, if history is any guide, the WeChat Bitcoin search query probably won’t last for long. Formerly, billion-user platforms China Central Television and Chinese TikTok variant Douyin have allowed something similar, only to have authorities pull them down just days after launch.
All Nippon Airways launches NFT marketplace
On May 30, All Nippon Airways (ANA), the largest airline in Japan with over $12.2 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year, launched an aeronautical-themed NFT marketplace dubbed “ANA GranWhale.” Developers wrote:
“NFTs have been used mainly in fields such as art and music as a technology for expressing ownership of digital assets. This time, the ANA Group will apply NFT to the aviation industry.”
As its inaugural step, ANA GranWhale will debut aerial photographer Luke Ozawa’s first-ever digital photo in his career as an NFT with an asking price of 100,000 yen ($719). The second installment, starting on June 7, will feature a 3-D model NFT conversion of the first special paint Boeing 787 aircraft launched by ANA. The NFT marketplace’s development began last August as part of ANA’s vision of building a Web3 virtual travel platform.
“With a view to commercializing NFTs as specialty products from various parts of Japan, we aim to improve the value of customer experience, including local and overseas, through the ‘GranWhale NFT marketplace.’”
Fed inspires Astar Network to revamp tokenomics
On May 28, Sota Watanabe, the founder of Japanese blockchain Astar (ASTR) Network, expressed his desire to revamp the protocol’s tokenomics, saying that even the United States government was targeting an inflation rate of 2%, compared to levels of around 8.4% currently. Drawing further inspiration from the Federal Reserve, Watanabe proposed mirroring the Fed’s meeting decisions every quarter or every six months and updating the blockchain’s token inflation rate on a variety of factors, writing:
“Decentralizing one of the roles of the FED can be a challenge but also an interesting trial.”
The crypto executive said he wished to either fix ASTR’s total supply and make the inflation rate smaller and smaller such as in Bitcoin, or automatically decide the inflation rate based on network usage, as in Ethereum, or use a mix of both models.
A multichain decentralized application proposal, Astar recently launched the second iteration of its smart contracts, supporting both Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and WebAssembly Virtual Machine (WASM VM) on its mainnet for developing new cross-chain apps.
BitFlyer and the Travel Rule
According to a recent announcement, Japanese cryptocurrency exchange bitFlyer will comply with the country’s Financial Services Agency’s new Travel Rule starting June 1. The Travel Rule states that a crypto asset exchange operator sending crypto assets at the request of a user shall provide specific information about the sender and the recipient to the exchange operator receiving the transfer.
In addition, further restrictions are imposed on crypto transfers to any of the 21 countries, including Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Bahamas, Hong Kong, and the U.S., utilizing the Coinbase-led Travel Rule Universal Solution Technology (TRUST).
BitFlyer clients who wish to transfer crypto to any of the 21 TRUST countries can only send Bitcoin or Ethereum and select ERC-20 tokens. Such requirements do not apply to transfers to addresses identified with any of the remaining non-TRUST countries. As told by bitFlyer:
“The purpose of the travel rule is to prevent the ability for terrorists and other criminals from using digital fund transfer systems as well as track unauthorized use.”
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