"We don't exclude the possibility that one day our customers are entitled to use bitcoin to add value to their Octopus card," said CEO Sunny Cheung Yiu-Tong.
The comment was reportedly issued during a "heated debate" between Cheung and Hong Kong Monetary Authority official Esmond Lee Kin-Ying at a panel discussion on financial service innovation at the Asian Financial Forum on 14th January. The conference sought to bring together Asia's financial leaders to discuss regional economic matters, and was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.
At the event, Cheung suggested that he expects bitcoin's user base to expand as the currency wins acceptance with online merchants. Lee countered, saying that bitcoin cannot yet be classified as a virtual currency, preferring instead to label it a "virtual commodity."
"Bitcoin fails to meet two preconditions as a virtual currency: consensus on its par value and confidence in the issuers."
Lee cast doubt on Cheung's statements that suggested more online merchants would seek to do business in the currency. In particular, Lee asserted that real estate developers, automobile manufacturers and other real-world businesses were unlikely to use bitcoin.
Regulation in Asia
Public comments from the bitcoin meetup group Bitcoin HK suggest that this debate may not have been the only time bitcoin was discussed at the convention. The group had noted its intent to use the forum as a way to inspire dialogue about emerging virtual currencies in public posts.
Despite Cheung's seeming support for bitcoin, it is unlikely that Octopus' decision to formally accept the currency would come under his leadership.
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