Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui has said that the government plans to consult the public in late 2022 about regulating online crowdfunding, in a bid to prevent activities that may “endanger” national security.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Attending a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, Hui revealed that the government was expecting to complete an internal study by the third quarter this year, and hopefully gather the public’s views on the matter by the next quarter. The consultation will cover areas including the scope of crowdfunding activities to be regulated and the need for registration or account auditing by the platforms and fundraisers.

‘Dedicated’ legislation

Hui said physical fundraising activities were already subject to certain regulations, but there was no dedicated legislation, government department or regulatory authority overseeing online crowdfunding initiatives.

“However, the law enforcement agencies, in light of the actual circumstances, have constantly been monitoring the situation for any illicit fundraising activities and taking appropriate enforcement actions,” said Hui.

Sonny Au, the undersecretary for security, who was also at the meeting, said that law enforcement agencies had fully utilised existing laws to crack down on crowdfunding activities suspected of having illicit purposes.

A fund-raising booth of Spark Alliance, which disbanded in November 2019. Photo: Spark Alliance.

“Among the national security cases, three were related to online crowdfunding. The money collected was used to fund activities endangering national security,” Au said, without giving further details.

In mid-May, police arrested five trustees of the defunct protester fund, 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, for allegedly colluding with foreign powers. The group was asked to provide information by national security police last year.

Radio host Edmund Wan – who is better known as DJ Giggs – was also remanded in custody on sedition and money laundering charges. He called for donations to support the living expenses of Hong Kong protesters who had travelled to seek refuge and study in Taiwan.

Pro-establishment parties have called for the regulation of online crowdfunding activities, especially since the protests and unrest in 2019, which saw the rise of community crowdfunding platforms to support demonstrators.

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Almond Li

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.