While Bitcoin is inherently a decentralized technology, meaning that payments can be disintermediated and peer-to-peer, some services in the cryptocurrency ecosystem are subject to the issues that come with centralization.
It seems that one of these services is BitPay, an Atlanta-based Bitcoin payments processor that is a firm behind a majority of cryptocurrency-enabled e-commerce.
The American company, which notably processed some $1 billion in payments in 2018, recently came under fire from the chief editor of a Hong Kong news organization, who was crowdsourcing funds for his organization partially through BTC.
“Never Use BitPay”
Over recent decades, citizens of Hong Kong have alledged that their city has been subject to increasing influence from the mainland Chinese governments.
Indeed, after the former British territory was handed back to the Chinese in 1997, the local government has begun the slow transition of drawing Hong Kong back to China.
In 2014, there were massive protests over a decision that candidates for the Hong Kong Chief Executive position were chosen by a Beijing-centric committee; In 2012, the Hong Kong government tried to impose a mandatory National Education curriculum, which would echo what is implemented in the mainland.
Due to the cases like the aforementioned, which critics say amount to a loss/erosion of basic freedoms for Hong Kong citizens, Tom Grundy launched the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP).
The first crowdfunded media outlet in the region, the HKFP has quickly become an outlet for the more democratic- and libertarian-minded to rally around. So it should come as no surprise that Bitcoin is accepted as a way to fund the media’s operations.
Since 2015, HKFP has raised some 15,000 Hong Kong dollars (it would have been worth more if they accepted BTC rather than the fiat equivalent) via BitPay’s Bitcoin payment processor.
But according to Tom Grundy, the editor in chief and founder of the outlet, the paycheques for the Bitcoin donations from their readers have recently stopped coming in.
In the tweetstorm that can be seen below, the journalist wrote that the funds being held are a result of the use of SWIFT and “horrible customer service” and “abysmal communication” on BitPay’s end. Grundy, accentuating his concerns, even wrote:
“Never use BitPay, folks. Truly the worst experience you can imagine – poor reputation, abysmal communication, horrible customer service, *very* high fees. Almost any alternative will be better. I’ve sent you & Steve a LinkedIn message. Am ready to go to war with publicity and legal action – sort it out guys!”
BIG THANKS to HKFP's supporters who donated HK$14,817 in Bitcoin since 2015.
— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) September 11, 2019
This is the second controversy that BitPay has found itself wound up in over the past few weeks. In August, the firm purportedly blocked a $100,000 donation paid in Bitcoin meant to get sent to an Amazon Rainforest preservation non-profit, who was presumably starting to deploy countermeasures to the heavy number of fires affecting the region.
Cryptocurrencies Take a Role in Hong Kong
This is the latest in a string of news accentuating that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are having a greater impact — albeit still small — in the Hong Kong region, potentially due to the political controversies that have been ailing the Chinese region for years now.
As reported by Blockonomi previously, Pricerite — a local home appliance chain with a number of locations across Hong Kong— has started to accept cryptocurrencies. According to local cryptocurrency Youtuber Michael “Boxmining” Gu, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are accepted by the chain. Gu claims that this integration involves Lightning Network support, potentially making it one of the first bonafide stores to utilize the second-layer scaling solution.
While the announcement outlining this implementation made no mention of the protests, alternatives to digital payment systems that can be tracked by the government are likely to be of interest to those involved in the protests.
This news came after local exchanges, such as TideBit and the peer-to-peer exchanges set up by those on LocalBitcoins.com, have started to see increased volumes and Bitcoin price premiums —signs that imply increased demand for the asset.