China’s new regulations for Bitcoin exchanges are a PITA

JISHOU, HUNAN — If you’re not into Bitcoin, you may safely skip this post. Otherwise, read on to learn of my frustrations in complying with China’s new requirements for Bitcoin exchange users.

I have accounts with two Chinese Bitcoin exchanges, and previously had no issues at all registering those accounts and submitting orders using my Chinese bank cards. But national banking regulators have recently compelled the exchanges to comply with KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) regulations, ostensibly to protect customers and cut off possible criminal activity, but mostly to restrict capital flight.

Over the weekend, Bitcoin prices had dipped into the $900 range, and I was betting that they would bounce back. Assuming that these new KYC/AML regulations were not yet in effect, I made a 500 RMB ($73) deposit to my Huobi.com account.

And nothing happened. Huobi did not credit the deposit to my account. Yesterday, customer service informed me that I had to upload a photo of my passport and a photo of me holding the passport next to my face. So I did that. Several times. Each time, there was an error message. First, I got “the image is not clear,” so I submitted new photos. These were also rejected, with the puzzling error message,”the name or number do not match the name and number on your account.”

Today, CS told me the problem. My passport has my name in all caps (XXXX), while the name on my Huobi account is first letter capitalized (Xxx). Moreover, my bank has my name listed in all caps with no spaces between my names (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX).

Apparently, it is beyond the ability of Chinese computer systems to resolve Western typography standards, as they consider H and h, for example, as completely different letters. So, in order to make a deposit to my Huobi account, CS would need to delete my non-compliant name from my Huobi account, and I would need to re-enter my name following my bank’s typography, all caps and no spaces.

But wait! There’s more!

Not only did I need to re-enter my name, I also had to re-submit my passport number, date of birth, cell number, and once again upload photos of my passport and me holding the passport. So, I did all that.

I also had to answer several questions about my investing experience, my acceptance of risk, the general source of my funds, the portion of my net worth I would be investing, and the general purpose of my investing in Bitcoin.

Next, CS told me I would need to re-submit my deposit order, but not transfer any more funds, and they could then process the order I made on Sunday. OK, but first, I had to bind my bank card YET AGAIN to my Huobi account, which I tried to do. Several times.

Haha, silly American! The system right now only allows holders of Chinese ID cards to bind their bank cards to their account; foreign passport numbers are not yet accepted by the system. It’s a Catch-22 that’s familiar to expats in China. We can work here, live here, bank here, but computer systems are geared toward Chinese ID card numbers. If you don’t have a Chinese ID number, many conveniences, like using electronic ticketing kiosks at train stations, are out of your reach.

So, while I have resolved the name issue at Huobi, I am still unable to process the deposit I made on Sunday, because their system (or the national regulators’ requirements) cannot yet accept my Chinese bank card.

My beef is not with Huobi. I know they are between a rock and hard place. In order to stay in business as one of China’s major Bitcoin exchanges, they have to follow the hamfisted national regulations, which apparently do not even consider a foreigner working in China might want to use a financial service based in China. As I write this, I am waiting for Huobi to get back to me about the bank card dilemma.

Once we get that resolved, there is yet another hurdle to cross. There is an additional requirement for users over the age of 60 — video verification. (I am 61.) I suppose I have to demonstrate on camera that I am in full possession of my full mental capacities, or something. Perhaps the national regulators worry that doddering seniors — you know, the ones who have already mastered their computers, the Internet, and Bitcoin markets — will somehow fumble their investments and bankrupt themselves. Or perhaps it’s a way to show they are trying to protect China’s aging population from fraudsters.

Whatever the reasons, it’s an additionally infuriating requirement on top of several already frustrating requirements, just to deposit 73 freaking dollars into an account I’ve had for at least two years.

And to top it all off, while I have been futzing around trying to resolve this deposit issue, Bitcoin prices have indeed bounced back above $1,000, and I missed my chance to make a tiny profit in the market. Insult to injury.

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Incidentally, if you’re a Bitcoin user and want to leave me a tip, my Bitcoin address is 1BFz9LL7HJfKtH16ZG8Hpbc7i1oh1vzbhj or you can scan the QR code here.

I also accept donations via PayPal, if you’re into that sort of thing. Click this little button thingie below.

Thanks!


Also published on Medium.

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