Bitcoin: A Tool Of Freedom?

Dominik Olech
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Eyes of the world are pointed at Hong Kong, where a wave of protests is sweeping through the city. What is the role of the cryptocurrency within it?

We have already briefly mentioned about cryptocurrency in the context of Hong Kong events in one of our Weekly Updates. But because the case is severe, it deserves more attention from our side. Let’s take a closer look at relations between crypto and recent events in China.

The world is watching

Before we move to an actual topic, it’s worth giving a short description of the situation. Hong Kong, alongside with Macau, is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. Such status provides the city with a certain autonomy, especially in measures of internal policy. However, the agreement that ensures this status will expire in 2047. It will probably bring Hong Kong back to full Chinese jurisdiction.

That date may still seem to be a distant future. However, the Chinese government is attempting to increase control over Hong Kong before 2047. One of such actions was the new extradition bill, which would establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives for Mainland China. Official publication of a new law was a spark that triggered the protest.

China’s interference has already met with a response from many sites. Many countries’ representatives expressed concern about the state of Hong Kong’s fundamental right to assemble. In the sports industry, basketball fans are showing their support after the NBA’s cut off from a pro-protesters team. A similar situation appeared in the context of e-sport when Blizzard had banned one of Hong Kong players for expressing support for the protest. It caused a significant backlash from the overall Internet society.

No wonder that such a noticeable event like Hong Kong protest is also influencing the cryptocurrency industry in some way. This city is already strictly connected with the blockchain world since many startups have their roots there. How Bitcoin got pulled into the conflict between protesters and Mainland China?

A currency for the hard times

The situation in Hong Kong becomes tenser with every week, with peaceful protests quickly transforming into an actual riot. Because of the pro-democratic and anti-governmental character of the demonstrations, the idea of Bitcoin suits them very well. At the end of August, Pricerite, one of the local department stores, began accepting some major cryptocurrencies. According to Yahoo! Finance, it will use Lightning Network to conduct payments.

But probably the most significant example comes from an organization called Genesis Block. This Hong Kong-based off-exchange trading center has already contributed to the popularization of digital assets in the city. In a reaction to the protest, Genesis Block has installed fourteen cryptocurrency ATMs. It was also giving out free water bottles with the Bitcoin Cash symbol since it’s one of the supporters of this cryptocurrency.

The growing interest in cryptocurrencies is not only noticeable through the actions of local entities. Significant growth in local Bitcoin volume is clearly visible since March when demonstrations broke out in Hong Kong. 

Against the government will

What attracts people to cryptocurrencies in times of trouble? Hong Kong protest is not the first time when digital assets come into play in moments of hardship. People in Zimbabwe chose Bitcoin as a solution to secure their funds in the moments of crisis in their country. We also shouldn’t forget about Petro, an already infamous solution to fight with inflation in Venezuela. Although this particular example failed, it gives us an interesting pattern: cryptocurrencies seemed to be a considerable solution for both governments and common people. 

In the context of Hong Kong, using Bitcoin is mostly another form of protest against the People’s Republic of China’s decisions. By choosing crypto, they show their distinctiveness from the oppressive system which they oppose. It correlates well with the previous action of the protestors, which was a massive withdrawing of money from banks and ATMs and changing them to the US dollar. Such an approach, just like converting to bitcoins, is both a way to take action against the government and also secure funds.

A step closer to the adoption

What’s more interesting, such faith in the crypto may contribute to the popularization of digital assets after all. People who found help in Bitcoin during protests may be more eager to use them later when the situation calms down.

Moreover, being widely used by demonstrators may give a positive reception from the side of the worldwide community that supports Hong Kong protestors. Being matched with fighting for democracy and freedom of speech is always an advantage for further debates about the importance of crypto.

But for now, protests in Hong Kong are still in force, and the situation is far from coming to a peaceful solution. Let’s hope that the popularization of the blockchain technology won’t be the only good outcome of these events.

Image by Jimmy Siu / shutterstock.com

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