China's central bank says it will crack down on a popular virtual currency, dubbed "Q-coin", widely used on the Internet, if it can be used for money laundering or harbor other risks.
The currency is issued by Tencent, a leading Internet community operator, for the users of QQ, an on-line chat room that had 220 million users by March.
It can be purchased with bank cards, telephone cards or QQ cards at an official price of one yuan (12.5 U.S. cents) and was originally intended to be used in buying on-line services provided by Tencent, including electronic greeting cards, cartoon portraits, chips in on-line QQ games and anti-virus software.
But many people have begun paying Q-coins when trading among themselves and in buying commodities and services provided by other websites.
Some experts worry that conversion between the Q-coin and the yuan, if unchecked, would lead to dire economic consequences.
"I don't think Q-coin is threatening the yuan, but the central bank has begun to study the issue," said Li Chao, spokesman of the People's Bank of China (PBOC).
"We will firmly crack down on virtual money if it is used to launder money," he said, but he did not give the timetable for releasing the regulations governing the virtual money.