Crowdfunding needs to be regulated in order to prevent money from being used for activities endangering national security, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui wrote on Thursday.

In a blog post, Hui said Hong Kong lacks laws to regulate crowdfunding in general, adding that the practice has emerged online more frequently in recent years, making policing more difficult.

Christopher Hui
Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui. Photo: GovHK.

Hui said one of the biggest risks of unregulated crowdfunding is that money could be used to fund illegal activity. Such platforms are sometimes used for money laundering, he claimed: “We need to formulate an appropriate regulation system, prohibiting any person or organisation from raising funds directly or indirectly for activities that endanger national security by ways of crowdfunding. We also need to cut the crowdfunding chains of fugitives who fled Hong Kong,” Hui wrote.

Photo: Patreon screenshot.

Activists, or friends of democrats, in Hong Kong and abroad have turned to US-based funding platform Patreon to raise funds. The site has hosted profiles from democrats Lam Cheuk-ting, Ventus Lau, Ted Hui, Au Nok-hin and Gwyneth Ho, as well as activist-academic Benny Tai.

Licencing urged

Secretary Hui proposed licensing or registering crowdfunding platforms operating in Hong Kong, requiring them to verify the purposes of fundraising projects. He also suggested making crowdfunding organisers register or obtain a permit beforehand. Hui also touted the idea of introducing a mechanism for reporting suspicious transactions.

Hui said the government will conduct public consultations this year, but he did not provide a detailed timetable.

spark alliance
A Spark Alliance fund-raising booth. Photo: Spark Alliance.

Authorities have cracked down on several crowdfunding initiatives in relation to the 2019 anti-extradition law protests and unrest.

Radio host Edmond Wan Yiu-sing, better known as “Giggs,” was arrested in February last year on a charge of “seditious intent.” Wan had called for donations to support Hong Kong protesters who travelled to seek refuge and study in Taiwan.

Police have also frozen the assets of Spark Alliance, a non-profit group that raised money to provide financial aid to Hong Kong protesters, accusing the group of money laundering.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.