Beijing’s long tradition of blocking unwanted foreign websites using the so-called Great Firewall of China has found a new target: cryptocurrency websites.
On Monday, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) affiliated publication Financial News reported that financial regulators in the mainland are working on “a list of measures” against cryptocurrency trading. The measures include “dealing with domestic and international websites,” the reported stated, according to the South China Morning Post.
The central bank-linked publication said the decision “to remove any onshore or offshore platforms related to virtual currency trading or ICOs [initial coin offerings]” was made “to prevent financial risks.”
“Overseas transactions and regulatory evasion have resumed,” according to the Financial News article. “Risks are still there, fueled by illegal issuance and even fraud and pyramid selling.”
Extending the ‘great firewall’ to include websites related to cryptocurrency trading and fundraising is the latest move to clamp down on what Beijing believes is risky investments.In January 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information announced a 14-month program to “clean up” the internet, which, in effect, made it even more difficult for Chinese residents to access any content the government deems unsavory, including internationally licensed online gambling sites.
A year ago, major digital currency exchanges in China stopped Bitcoin and litecoin withdrawals on their respective platforms as they improve their anti-money laundering capabilities to prevent “illegal transactions.” The upgrades were part of the requirements set by the People’s Bank of China, who called on digital currency operators to step up their game against anti-money laundering.
Despite making the upgrades, Beijing officials still banned domestic cryptocurrency exchanges and fundraising activities that use digital tokens in September, which resulted in Chinese traders moving to overseas platforms.
“ICOs and virtual currency trading did not completely withdraw from China following the official ban … after the closure of the domestic virtual currency exchanges, many people turned to overseas platforms to continue participating in virtual currency transactions,” according to the article.
Digital currency-related advertisements have disappeared from Chinese search engine Baidu as well as on social media platform Weibo after reports of a fresh crackdown on cryptocurrency activities surfaced.