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Hong Kong aims to implement investor ID requirement next year

Hong Kong regulators are looking to implement an identification programme for all investors in the city looking to buy shares traded on the mainland, according to a legislator representing the city’s financial sector.

The plans would bring Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, into line with requirements on the mainland, where investors must register with their real name and identification card, to make traders accountable in the event of market manipulation.

The plans target trading through the Connect programme, by which Hong Kong investors can buy shares on the mainland, and vice versa. The Hong Kong-Shanghai Stock Connect was launched in late 2014 and the companion Shenzhen Connect arrived December 2016.

Both the Hong Kong and mainland stock markets have been affected by concerns about poor corporate governance and market manipulation. Regulators in Hong Kong have stepped up their enforcement, targeting volatile trading driven by mainland inflows and often resulting in investigations into mainland groups.

Christopher Cheung, a stockbroker and member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council who represents the financial services industry, said that the Securities and Futures Commission, the city’s regulator, was likely to release information in the next couple of months and could implement the rules early next year.

It takes time to improve the clearing and settlement system, the brokerages will need to install new software, and they will need to sign new contracts with their customers to make sure that they are aware of the new information collection,” he said.

He added that some investors might have privacy concerns with their information being shared, but that the mainland would likely require Hong Kong to implement the system as part of its plans to integrate the markets.

In June, the Hong Kong and Chinese governments signed an agreement to “promote and protect” cross-border investments, granting investors in both jurisdictions freer access to each other’s markets.

The SFC and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, which operates the Hong Kong stock exchange, declined to comment.

A spokesman for HKEX told Caixin, a Chinese financial magazine, in August that it was “actively discussing” real-name registration and that if it was implemented it would “only apply to investors under the Stock Connect programme”.

One senior banker in Hong Kong said that the rules could trigger a slowdown in the trading of “certain names” but he did not expect much impact on overall trading levels.

People have gotten comfortable with more transparency and more disclosure,” he said, adding that buoyant Hong Kong markets have been driven by a new southbound pool of money that is “entirely legitimate”.

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