Protesters gather on Victoria Park in Hong Kong Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Sunny Mok)

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Hong Kong is entering its 11th weekend of protests, with about 1.7 million people marching in a weekend without tear gas and which was marked with relative calm. That figure is close to 25% of the total population of Hong Kong. Protesters continue to demonstrate for their five demands, including universal suffrage, greater democratic rights and the resignation of current Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Cryptocurrency providers and companies have played various roles in the ongoing protests, from exchanges providing a way to off-ramp from HKD and in the context of cryptocurrency premiums, to advocating for transactional privacy and handing out cryptocurrency-financed supplies to protestors.  Those who are running cryptocurrency ATMs and physical event spaces in the Hong Kong area are often on the frontline of the interaction between cryptocurrencies and city residents.

One cryptocurrency ATM provider, Genesis Block, provided Hong Kong protestors with water bottles and umbrellas (the emblem, of course, of the previous 2014 Umbrella Movement) on July 1st that were funded by international bitcoin cash donations. The bottles had a QR code that allowed recipients to donate more bitcoin cash in order to fund further supplies for peaceful protestors.

BCH-funded water bottles given out in Hong Kong

Provided by Genesis Block

While the volume of bitcoin cash received was not a very large amount after, this initiative represents a tangible representation of how the international cryptocurrency community can, despite the boundaries of being entirely virtual, affect conditions offline — and how in a time of change, cryptocurrency awareness can be increased through tangible, physical efforts to engage with communities on the ground.

This comes despite a general drop in demand for physical services dealing with cryptocurrencies during protest days, with purchases being nearly impossible while protests are ongoing. While premiums may be paid online for cryptocurrency in Hong Kong dollars, the nature of the protest makes purchases more difficult on the ground.

Genesis Block, under the CoinHere label, operates 14 cryptocurrency ATMs, which is close to 36% of all cryptocurrency ATMs mapped in Hong Kong. 13 of their cryptocurrency ATMs are buy-only, and they support buys of ethereum, bitcoin and bitcoin cash. One allows for selling those three cryptocurrencies.

Beyond cryptocurrency ATMs, Genesis Block offers OTC trading, mining equipment and event space as well — and hosts educational workshops and events on blockchain and cryptocurrency within Hong Kong. With a newsletter and several blogs and tutorials dedicated to cryptocurrency, it can be more accurate to think of Genesis Block as a hub rather than just a service provider limited to ATMs. Nevertheless, their ATM operations are significant, and they are one of the largest crypto ATM operators in Hong Kong.

They saw a slight decrease (about 10%) in transactional volume from June to July for its ATMs, right when the large public protests in Hong Kong started kicking off and gathering momentum. ATMs that were in the protest areas (such as an ATM located at Wan Chai Hennessy Road which is close to major protest sites) saw noticeable drops in volume. Another provider, HK Bitcoin ATM, also reported a general decrease in trading volume that was somewhat correlated to when protests were happening.

However, despite this drop in physical demand for crypto ATMs, exchange demand on providers such as Tidebit showed premiums for cryptocurrency bought with Hong Kong dollars. This shows a still healthy demand for cryptocurrency in Hong Kong. None of the slight decrease in ATM volume has dampened Genesis Block’s drive to raise awareness about cryptocurrency in Hong Kong, showing that when it comes to cryptocurrency and the Hong Kong protests, it isn’t just about the money.

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