China’s Bitcoin ban begins to bite

Two of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges have halted new registrations for Chinese users and one will retire current accounts, taking actions to comply with Beijing’s latest crypto ban.

Exchange operators Huobi and Binance have stopped letting traders use mainland China mobile numbers to register new accounts, after the People’s Bank of China said Friday all crypto-related transactions will be considered illicit financial activity. New sign-ups are still available for Hong Kong users on both platforms, but mainland China is no longer an option for new-account creation. Huobi has also announced plans to close existing accounts by year-end.

“To comply with local laws and regulations, Huobi Global has ceased account registration for new users in Mainland China,” effective Sept. 24, the exchange said in a statement. “Huobi Global will gradually retire existing Mainland China user accounts” by the end of December “and ensure the safety of users’ assets,” it said.

A Binance spokesperson said the company doesn’t have exchange operations in China and blocks Chinese IPs, without commenting on the mobile registration move.

“Binance takes its compliance obligations very seriously and is committed to following local regulator requirements wherever we operate,” the spokesperson said in an email.

China’s latest pronouncement — issued by the central bank along with nine other government agencies including the public security ministry — is the culmination of years of attempted crackdowns on the rise of Bitcoin and its peers. Friday’s notice specifically called out offshore exchanges targeting Chinese users, banning them from hiring locally for roles from marketing to payment settlement and tech.

In 2017, China told local exchanges to stop hosting trades between fiat money and crypto tokens, forcing Huobi and Binance to set up shops in friendlier jurisdictions such as Singapore and Malta for their main trading platforms. Still, Chinese users have been able to access their services including over-the-counter trading and crypto-to-crypto transactions.

In June, Huobi banned existing Chinese users from trading riskier products such as derivatives, after China’s cabinet called for a renewed clampdown on crypto trading and mining. There is no indication that Chinese users are barred from Huobi and Binance altogether, which are widely regarded as two of the big three crypto exchanges that originated in China, along with OKEx.

Users can still use mainland China numbers to register on OKEx as of Sunday morning in Hong Kong.

Now read: China bans Bitcoin transactions

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China’s Bitcoin ban begins to bite