Hong Kong’s Crypto-coin Rebellion

In the days since July 1, when hundreds of protestors stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and tore up the portraits of some of the city’s present and past leaders, a quiet and somewhat uncertain campaign has begun making the rounds in chat forums and on Twitter.

Hong Kong Republic, a token that goes by the symbol $HKR on Twitter, is a cryptocurrency created by an anonymous pro-democracy advocate concerned about Hong Kong's future characterized by a free and liberally open society.

Just recently this currency creator, who goes by the name Dr. Dragon, has published a manifesto on a placid and nearly featureless website, where you can also get information about the $HKR token. Only a few days I had an encounter with Dr. Dragon, who slipped onto my Twitter feed and offered "freedom coins" for supporters of Hong Kong's liberation. Intrigued, I am not one to turn down a socio-economic experiment in liberty.

“Hi, I’ve developed a ERC20 token to support the Hong Kong Independence movement,” he said. “I’m sending tokens to supporters. Would you like to participate?”

While the direct approach took me by surprise, it seemed genuine. Why not take some coins for freedom? Freedom coins!

A reasonable person, or even an economist, might ask what can be done with freedom coins. It’s an important question. The coins are worth zero dollars each. They aren’t listed on an exchange. So the only way you can get them is through word of mouth. And this is the point, for now. It’s creator, who goes by the pseudonym “Doctor Dragon,” wants people around the world and in Hong Kong to rally around the idea of freedom for Hong Kong. Perhaps the coin will be a talisman. a touchpoint that will inspire the protestors and bring more people to the streets or online forums to talk about what is going on, he says.

If you don’t know the backstory — and it’s a backstory that goes all the way back to colonial Hong Kong and the origins of its Basic Law — Hong Kong people are protesting their leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s awkward and gaffe-loaded attempt to railroad the extradition bill through a Legislative Council that has recently seen most of its pro-democracy politicians arrested, thrown out and barred from government.

This bill, which on the surface seems like normal legislation that any government needs to have in place to send felons and wanted fugitive to justice, just doesn’t seem to look that honest in Hong Kong people’s eyes.

They are fearful that it would enable prosecutors to work with China’s court system to send to China wanted felons and – perhaps – people who really don’t need to be in jail, to deal with what many observers say is anything but a fair, democratic or transparent justice system.

You can follow the hashtag about this protest movement at #antiELAB.

Cryptocurrency as Democracy Tool?

A fan of both news and cryptocurrency, I spend a lot of my free time on Twitter reading about the two. As a “resident” of Hong Kong, I’ve dropped my share of comments at the South China Morning Post, the city’s biggest English language newspaper, on the topic of the government’s attempts at calming the pro-democracy fray. As an American citizen, I feel like I understand the struggle for democracy and would like to see that kind of liberty be given to Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people.

Like a lot of people in Hong Kong, I have grown tired of how little the government seems to be capable of listening, or acting, on the demands of its people. So this idea of a cryptocurrency seemed interesting to me. Could an Ethereum-based token do anything to fight against 90 million Communist Party members who do not want to see a free, democratic, and completely open Hong Kong?

The Random Stranger Fighting for Democracy

$HKR is meant to be a token that can “celebrate [the] Hong Kong independence movement,” according to Doctor Dragon.

I have no way of verifying this, as everything I have been told is through an anonymous Twitter handle called @HKRepublic, says that he prefers not to state his age, “out of privacy.” He sounds like he’s not a native English speaker, but, then, sometimes he sounds like he is one. The language doesn’t seem to be consistently ESL.

I don’t know his real name. He says his parents are from Hong Kong. He may or may not be in school, and travels back and forth from wherever he is to Hong Kong, sometimes.

As intrigued as he is by cryptocurrency, he didn’t know how to mine his own 7.5 million $HKR coins. To solve this problem, he got a software developer to help him.

You can check everything you need to know about the coin here, including the number of wallets that have received it, and how much it costs to send the token to new wallets. He is paying out of pocket for this, presumably. To send an ERC20 token, you have to pay GAS, which is bought using EThereum, the main token for the Ethereum smart contracts / blockchain.

If you want coins, I am sure he will send some to you if you slide into his DMs. There is also a Telegram chat, if you want to try that.

Disclosure: He sent 3,000 $HKR to my wallet, but under the condition that I send them to others who might want them. So in an experiment of social justice, I am doing that. He also said he would give me more $HKR for this purpose if I wrote about it, so this is also an experiment in “trustless” cryptocurrency.

Douglas Crets is a teacher and writer in Hong Kong. He tweets at @douglascrets.