While walking through Causeway Bay in Hong Kong today, the young woman in the above photo approached me and handed me a red envelope. Giving red envelopes with money inside is one of the traditions for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday. But in this situation it was surely for a marketing purpose, and I did not expect to receive Hong Kong dollars. This red envelope included an especially interesting twist on the money theme though. Instead of cash, it contained a code for "free Bitcoins" as part of an ANX promotion.
As Danny Lee reported today in the South China Morning Post, I was not alone in receiving such a gift:
Vouchers worth HK$500,000 [approximately US$64,400] in bitcoin are being gifted to members of the public by the city’s biggest bitcoin exchange, ANX, to mark the dawn of the Year of the Horse ...The promotion caught my attention since I had been following some of the recent news and commentary regarding Bitcoin in mainland China. Hong Kong is its own world in many ways, and perhaps the promotion should not be too surprising in Asia's first city to soon have a Bitcoin ATM (video report on WSJ Live here). It will be fascinating to see if and how Bitcoin use grows in Hong Kong and the rest of China.
ANX hopes the stunt will encourage Hongkongers to embrace the controversial digital currency, which has shot to prominence in recent months amid mixed messages from central banks around the world over its use.
“We are trying to help the eco-system,” said Lo Ken-bon, the company’s founder and managing director. “One of the biggest issues is the adoption of it because it’s too complicated for most mainstream users – we are trying to get them started as easily as possible.”
Maybe ANX has started a slightly new Chinese New Year tradition.