Hong Kong retailers to be allowed to accept new digital yuan

(Source: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Hong Kong will allow mainland China’s pilot digital currency to be used in shops in the city, the head of its de facto central bank said on Friday, marking a step forward for Beijing’s efforts to internationalise the yuan amid rising geopolitical tensions.

The programme, backed by Beijing, will allow mainland Chinese and Hong Kong residents to open digital yuan wallets via a mobile app developed by China’s central bank and will permit them to make payments in retail shops and some online stores in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

Transactions using e-CNY, predominantly for domestic retail payments in China, hit US$249.27 billion as of end of June 2023, with 120 million digital wallets opened, according to the latest disclosure from China’s central bank.

Using the wallet, users can make payments at over 10 million merchants in 17 provinces and cities in the mainland.

Each wallet used in the city will be subject to a balance limit of $1.384, with single transactions and daily payments capped at $276.87 and $692.17, respectively, officials from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said.

Peer-to-peer transfers will not be allowed at the moment, according to the HKMA.

“By expanding the e-CNY pilot in Hong Kong .. users may now top up their wallets anytime, anywhere without having to open a mainland bank account, thereby facilitating merchant payments in the mainland by Hong Kong residents,” HKMA Chief Eddie Yue said.

Currently, users of other digital yuan wallets such as those operated by Ant Group and Tencent can make payments in the city.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China Ltd, China Construction Bank Corp and Bank of Communications Co have been selected as e-CNY wallet operators.

The yuan’s use in global finance remains low, though it has shown steady increases.

  • Reporting by Selena Li and Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Kim Coghill, of Reuters

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