Bank of China (Hong Kong), one of the three note-issuing banks in the city, has taken the lead to promote the use of digital yuan (e-CNY), offering e-laisee incentives to customers who register to use it.
Customers can use their mobile phone number to set up the BOC e-CNY wallet through the e-CNY (Pilot Version) app during the registration period that runs from Monday until December 29, according to a statement from the bank.
To encourage customers to try the digital currency, BOCHK is offering red packet awards worth 100 e-CNY, which can be used to buy goods at 14 physical shops of supermarket chain U Select across the city. The red packet, commonly known as laisee in Hong Kong, can also be used to shop on e-commerce platform JD.com or at mainland Chinese merchants that accept the digital currency.
“The launch of this e-CNY exclusive experience programme will help prove that e-CNY is technically feasible in Hong Kong,” said Chen Guang, BOCHK’s deputy general manager of the digital currency task force.
Bank of China is offering customers incentives to promote the use of the e-CNY. Photo: Sam Tsang
Transactions of China’s central bank digital currency totalled 100 billion yuan (US$14 billion) since the start of the e-CNY initiative in December 2019 to the end of August this year, according to the latest figures released by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).
Some 5.6 million merchants on the mainland now accept the digital currency. China’s major online platforms, including multipurpose super app WeChat, Alipay, JD.com and on-demand food delivery giant Meituan, have all enabled e-CNY as a payment option.
The Chinese government, however, has not released a timetable for the e-CNY’s full nationwide roll-out.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority completed a small scale pilot of the e-CNY for retail use earlier this year. The de facto central bank is currently in the midst of a second round of tests, which started in the fourth quarter.
“As trade and retail increasingly moves online, it is natural that the central banks [HKMA and PBOC] promote the e-CNY in Hong Kong,” said Edmund Wong Chun-sek, who represents the accountancy constituency in the city’s legislature. “It will be convenient for tourists to use the digital currency in the city and for Hongkongers to shop online.”
BOCHK said some 200 employees took part in two rounds of technical testing of the e-CNY before rolling it out to its clients.
With the support of the Chinese and Hong Kong regulators, BOCHK has laid the essential foundation, including the topping up of e-CNY wallets with Faster Payment System and the e-CNY merchant-acquiring business for the development of e-CNY, the bank said.
“BOCHK will continue to support the relevant work of e-CNY and explore more application scenarios of the digital currency in Hong Kong, so as to promote the development of the Greater Bay Area and facilitate cross-border financial services,” Chen said.