China’s Alibaba, Tencent Bar Cryptocurrency Transactions on WeChat Pay, AliPay

August 24, 2018, 11:00 PM UTC

In a move that will likely make it even harder for cryptocurrency aficionados to trade Bitcoin and its ilk in China, the mobile payments titans of the country have barred crypto-related transactions.

WeChat Pay and Ant Financial’s Alipay are monitoring their platforms for transactions related to cryptocurrencies, with WeChat saying Friday that it would prohibit users from sending funds related to such digital assets on its social media platform. Its a notable move, Chinese citizen have rapidly adopted the technology. Over $12 trillion changed hands via mobile in the first 10 months of 2017 alone in the Middle Kingdom.

At the same time, Ant Financial, backed by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, revealed in a statement that it has been restricting accounts associated with cryptocurrency transactions on its payments platforms for a while now. Alipay is said to have about 520 million users, while WeChat has about 1 billion monthly active users.

“Alipay has always adhered to the principle of not providing services to virtual currency transactions,” an Ant Financial spokesperson said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor over-the-counter trading activities on a daily basis. Once we find any suspicious crypto-related transactions, we will take appropriate measures immediately, including but not limited to: suspension of fund transfer functionality of any Alipay accounts used by companies for crypto-related transactions.”

That comes as the Chinese government has continued its crackdown on cryptocurrencies this year. Already, the country has banned domestic exchanges, initial coin offerings, and is now seeking to block foreign exchanges using the country’s Great Firewall, according to state media. But even with those restrictions, investors would still in theory be able to purchase cryptocurrency through over-the-counter methods. Though officials seem wary of that trading loophole.

Earlier this week, Chinese authorities including the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission warned citizens against fundraising scams that claimed to be developing a blockchain project. Officials also shuttered a “large” number of WeChat groups that discussed newer cryptocurrencies.