The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced Friday the launch of a digital yuan pilot program.

The digital yuan, or the e-CNY, allows retail transactions and cross-border payments within the city.

It is designed to offer a digital alternative to cash payments for Hong Kong residents while integrating China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) into its financial system.

The pilot allows residents to create digital yuan wallets linked to their mobile numbers and fund them via 17 local banks using the Faster Payment System (FPS). 

This collaboration between the FPS and the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China is the first time any CBDC has connected with a rapid payment system.

The e-CNY wallets are expected to gain more functionalities as merchant adoption grows, facilitating wallet top-ups without the need for a mainland bank account.

The program sets transaction and balance limits to regulate the digital yuan’s circulation and ensure financial stability. 

Individual transactions and daily spending are capped at 2,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan, respectively, with a maximum wallet balance of 10,000 yuan. 

These controls are intended to manage usage and maintain economic equilibrium.

The digital yuan has facilitated 1.8 trillion yuan (US$250 million) in transactions recorded as of June 2023. 

Over 10 million merchants across 17 provinces and cities in mainland China now accept the digital currency.

The HKMA’s future plans include enhancing e-CNY wallets with real-name verification and exploring corporate applications for cross-border trade settlements.