Deadline Looms: Hong Kong Crypto Exchanges Race to Secure Licenses or Face Closure

Crypto exchanges operating in Hong Kong are facing a crucial deadline, with regulators mandating that they must apply for a virtual asset trading platform (VATP) license from the city’s Securities & Futures Commission (SFC) by February 29. Failure to comply could result in the liquidation of their businesses and exit from the region within three months.

As the deadline approaches, a total of 18 crypto exchanges have submitted applications for registration with the SFC, including prominent platforms such as OKX, Bybit,, and HKVAX, which is affiliated with Binance. However, four other applications have been withdrawn since the licensing regime opened last August, including one from Huobi HK, the Hong Kong subsidiary of Huobi.

Once licensed, these exchanges will be permitted to onboard retail investors to trade major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH). Additionally, the SFC is reviewing various altcoins and stablecoins for trading approval. Currently, only OSL and HashKey have received their Hong Kong VATP licenses.

Exchanges that fail to adhere to the VATP requirements must cease all operations by May 31, while those whose applications are rejected by the SFC are also required to leave the city within three months.

Despite regulatory efforts, unauthorized crypto exchanges remain a persistent problem in Hong Kong. Recent incidents, including the collapse of JPEX and Hounax due to alleged Ponzi schemes, have underscored the risks faced by investors. In another concerning development, BitForex, a Hong Kong-based exchange, halted user redemptions and withdrew $56 million from its hot wallets, prompting an ongoing investigation. As the regulatory landscape evolves and authorities crack down on non-compliant exchanges, the importance of licensing and compliance measures has never been more critical for crypto businesses operating in Hong Kong.