The importance of crypto to protesters
Hong Kong is now one of the biggest hotspots of civil unrest in the world. Protests and tensions have been inflamed by the recently proposed legislation that would make it possible for Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China. The fear is that local Hong Kong people and visitors would be effectively placed under Chinese jurisdiction, which undermines the autonomy of Hong Kong and it’s citizen’s rights.
Having been a British colony for over 150 years until 1997, Hong Kong still models it’s legal system on the British one, valuing transparency, democracy, and due process. This stance gave rise to the “one country, two systems” policy which recognized that Hong Kong was different from mainland China and that Hong Kong Basic Law would trump laws made on the mainland for 50 years after the handover. All this was an attempt to protect Hong Kong’s democracy, the right to protest, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These rights are taken for granted in the West, however, they are rights that the mainland Chinese simply do not enjoy.
Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens have decided to take to the streets to protest the infringement of their democratic rights, autonomy, freedom of speech and of the press. What’s clear is that the Hong Kong people will not become subservient to Beijing without a fight and, sadly, peaceful protest has led to violent suppression.
The eyes of the world are now on Hong Kong and China.
Although the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong protesters made international news headlines on the 9th of June 2019, the Chinese media remained silent. Instead, the Chinese government censored online posts and media on popular Chinese social platforms like Weibo and WeChat containing keywords like “Hong Kong”, “Hong Kong government,” “1.03 million (the number of alleged protesters) and the names of areas where the protesters marched.
The Chinese government then decided to run a creative media campaign of its own, claiming that:
- The protesters were violent extremists who were in the pockets of the West.
- There was widespread support for China in Hong Kong and for the police attempting to clamp down on the protests.
- Hong Kong needs to be reminded of the military might of China.
- Hong Kong is part of China.
Hong Kong citizens defaced and vandalized China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, with the Chinese publication People’s Daily responding with an editorial saying that “the central authority will not be challenged.” Bejing had seemingly decided to try and take control over the narrative with more than 160,000 Weibo users using the hashtag #TheCentralAuthorityWillNotBeChallenged.
On the 21st of July, groups of men wearing white t-shirts were spotted in Hong Kong beating protesters. This story was leveraged by the Chinese government to portray a narrative of good versus evil. Pro-Chinese Facebook and Twitter accounts were then activated in an attempt to spread the Chinese narrative internationally. Both Twitter and Facebook claimed to have suspended accounts which they believed were distributing state-backed misinformation.
The battle for ownership of the Hong Kong narrative even spilled over to Telegram (a messaging app used by huge swaths of the crypto community). Telegram was attacked by Chinese servers in a denial-of-service attempt. Chinese protesters using Telegram were also monitored and some even found themselves arrested for sending pro-Hong Kong messages through Telegram.
Facial recognition towers have also been installed in Hong Kong to help the Chinese government monitor who took part in the protests. Hong Kong citizens reacted by vandalizing these state-backed monitoring systems.
Why Does Hong Kong Show That Censorship Resistance Matters?
The protests in Hong Kong show that technologically advanced states can leverage centralized technology to censor, monitor and intimidate their own people. This is particularly alarming when it comes to monitoring messaging apps like Telegram and using that data to target and arrest people. Indeed, many Hong Kong protesters refused to use centralized payment methods like the state-issued Octopus card to pay for public transport due to fears that this would leave a data trail for the government to arrest them for participating in the protests.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been designed to be censorship-resistant and be free of any intervening hand of governments. Put simply, no government can freeze the account of any decentralized cryptocurrency and it’s exceptionally hard for governments to monitor the transactions of their citizens. Indeed, many cryptocurrencies are working towards making transactions even more anonymous and this is particularly important in an age where people may wish to remain anonymous and free from the monitoring of centralized governments.
The Hong Kong protesters seem to have recognized the value in censorship-resistant
money that’s hard for even the Chinese government to tie to a person’s identity. Indeed, crypto adoption seems to be skyrocketing in Hong Kong right now with:
- Bitcoin trading at a premium of over $160 on Hong Kong exchanges like TideBit.
- ATM provider, Genesis Block, distributing water bottles and umbrellas to Hong Kong protesters with QR codes to fund additional supplies for protesters.
- The growth in acceptance of crypto as a payment method in Hong Kong-based stores.
Admittedly anyone reading this article is probably thousands of miles from Hong Kong. However, do you really trust your government? Though it is tempting to deny the possibility of oppression happening to those of us fortunate enough to live with liberty, the truth is that anything happening in this world to other people could also happen to you. It is easy for governments to brand legitimate protesters as extremists and potentially freeze all your bank accounts or monitor your transactions and use that data trial to arrest you later. That’s why if you believe in freedom, self-sovereignty, and freedom of speech, you should consider crypto’s censorship-resistance as one of its most important attributes. If this is not a real-world use-case, then what is?
The Old Fallacy of ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’
When it comes to censorship-resistance and privacy, many in the mainstream argue that there is nothing to worry about if you have done nothing wrong. It’s a persuasive argument. However, the problem is that it assumes that centralized authorities like governments will always act fairly.
Yes, it is true that some people use cryptocurrency for money laundering and criminal activities and this is often used to give crypto a bad reputation among the mainstream. However, the truth is that significantly more ‘bad guys’ use state-backed fiat currencies like the USD. The current problems in Hong Kong also go to show that not everyone wanting to process semi-anonymous payments or wanting censorship resistance is acting nefariously.
Sure, if you think that taking away power from potentially oppressive governments is a bad thing, then censorship resistance is not for you. However, one of the key powers of crypto is that it provides an alternative, non-state backed means of payment. It is semi-anonymous and can play a key role in curbing governments leveraging technology to monitor and censor their own people. Having a viable hedge against government oppression is surely worth something and is why we think that censorship-resistance is one of the most underrated benefits of cryptocurrencies. Indeed, it may even be wise for everyone to have crypto as an insurance policy in place to protect you against a scenario like in Hong Kong.
How Safe Is Your Financial Data?
Financial control and surveillance are one of the major pitfalls of the traditional banking sector. Sure, there are legal standards and business processes in most developed countries to try and prevent the abusive use of all this financial data. Most governments take breaches of privacy data very seriously and can impose fines and lawsuits against incompetent data handlers.
Currently, most people in first-world democracies appear to be comfortable with the level of privacy offered by the current system. However, the rise of far-right politicians around the world could perhaps be seen as a warning shot of changing times. The progress made by far-right parties such as Italy’s Lega Nord party, the French National Rally party and Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán are all examples of this increasing political polarization.
It is tempting to be complacent about the need for censorship resistance until you abruptly find yourself in a situation like Hong Kong. With a rapidly changing world and rapidly shifting governmental politics, it could be wise to start questioning how safe your financial data actually is and re-examining the value that censorship-resistance has and the hedge that it offers everyone.
Is This the Most Censorship Resistant Crypto?
Decentralization and censorship-resistance are the guiding principles upon which many cryptocurrencies have been built upon. Naturally, the main cryptocurrency that springs to mind is Bitcoin and whilst it is exceptionally censorship-resistant, it is arguably not the most censorship-resistant crypto out there. This is because Bitcoin requires a node, operated by a third party, in order for you to broadcast a transaction over the network. All this means is that to make a Bitcoin transaction, the chances are you are dependent on Bitcoin miners with huge amounts of computing power to process your transaction for you. This is because most average computers are simply not powerful enough to process transactions in any reasonable time-frame. All this means is that even Bitcoin transactions are dependent on third parties who could theoretically censor transactions.
However, an under the radar cryptocurrency called Nimiq actually solves this issue and can be considered even more decentralized and censorship-resistant than Bitcoin. This is because Nimiq users don’t need a node, operated by a third party, in order to broadcast a transaction to the network and can instead do this directly. All this is made possible by Nimiq’s unique architecture, which was built from the ground up specifically with decentralization in mind. The result is Nimiq being perhaps the most censorship-resistant and decentralized cryptocurrency out there right now and means that Nimiq users have complete control over their funds and that no oppressive state can enforce financial restrictions or confiscate funds.
Maybe you do not live in the shadow of an authoritarian government or think you face the same dangers as the citizens of Hong Kong. However, you only have to look at recent history to see that financial oppression has happened in the West and could happen again at any time. In 2013, during the Cypriot banking crisis, citizens woke up to find that 47.5 percent of their savings had been confiscated by the state on deposits above €100,000. In total, the Cypriot government had stolen €4 billion from their citizens to prop up the country’s ailing banks. If that was not bad enough, the government also imposed severe restrictions on cash withdrawals to try and prevent a run on the local banks.
The lesson is that it is easy to believe that your government will not financially oppress you until it’s too late. Maybe spend a little time on Google and look at how much national debt your country actually has and the strength of the banks that you store funds in. If you have any worry about what your government may do in the future, then Nimiq’s extraordinary levels of decentralization and censorship-resistance could make it one of the best ways to protect your financial sovereignty.
What Is Nimiq?
Nimiq is a cryptocurrency native to the web which is focused on ushering a new era of censorship-resistant money. It is also home to a diverse ecosystem of apps all aiming to make it easy for both technical and non-tech savvy users to adopt the Nimiq payment system.
In short, Nimiq is all about staying true to the ideals of decentralization and censorship-resistance, whilst building a cryptocurrency from the ground up that is capable of being mass adopted by everyone. This is seen throughout the project in its simple user interfaces, which all aim to take the complication out of crypto and make things easy for normal people.
Nimiq has also adopted a browser-first approach for its blockchain, which makes the NIM token native to the web. That word salad just means that you can use Nimiq in your web browser without any annoying downloads or integrations. The value here is ease of use and giving users that ‘it just works’ experience. It’s a bit like the benefits of using Google Docs over traditional Word software.
Scalability is one of the biggest problems in crypto right now. All this means is that a payment network like Nimiq cannot be mass adopted unless it can process an adequate number of transactions per second. Think about how annoying it would be if you went to a supermarket, paid in crypto and had to wait an hour for your transaction to go through. With widely used traditional payment systems like PayPal, we all know transactions take a matter of seconds and this is thanks to the scalability of these payment networks. The problem for crypto payment systems like Bitcoin is that they can only currently process 7 transactions per second, whilst the likes of PayPal process an average of 193 per second.
Nimiq has decided to tackle the scalability issue plaguing cryptocurrency by teaming up with Trinkler Software, led by Forbes 30 Under 30 winner Reto Trinkler. Together they have devised a new technical paper for a new proof-of-stake consensus algorithm called Albatross. Incredibly, the initial findings of this research show that Albatross is theoretically capable of hitting the maximum speed possible for a single-chain blockchain. Nimiq plans to integrate Albatross into Nimiq 2.0 and that could see Nimiq being home to the fastest single-chain blockchain in the world, with a speed of 1,000+ transactions per second.
The recent Hong Kong protests are perhaps one of the best current examples in the world showcasing the true value of censorship-resistance and how technology can be leveraged by governments to monitor and oppress populations.
Decentralized and censorship-resistant cryptocurrencies offer everyone an alternative counter-measure against nanny states, intrusive financial monitoring, and oppression. That’s surely something very valuable, even if it just acts as a hedge and a technology to help keep governments honest. Indeed, censorship-resistance could turn out to be the most underrated and most valuable attribute of cryptocurrencies.
That’s why censorship-resistance matters in crypto and why the people of Hong Kong appear to be embracing crypto on a scale never seen before.
Disclaimer: The author holds some NIM in their portfolio and is compensated in a long-term independent consulting capacity by Nimiq. This article must not be construed as investment advice. Always do your own research.