Passing through Central earlier this week we were struck by the strong uniformed presence around the junction of Pedder Street and Des Voeux Road. This appeared to be a co-ordinated operation with at least six traffic wardens, and six uniformed branch police and a sprinkling of traffic police. What was going on, we wondered? Had there been an incident, were the authorities expecting one, another protest perhaps?
On inquiring we learned that a road safety enforcement operation was under way. The operation was targeting that awful crime that affects so many of us in the course of everyday life and absolutely justified the crackdown we were observing. This took the form, for the 12 to 16 officers involved, of spending a couple of hours watching people cross the road.
The offence to which we refer is, of course, jaywalking. Indeed, we observed one lady, who looked like a tourist, receiving a ticket. Meanwhile, while all this was going on, 80 yards up the road it was clear that the usual illegal car parking was occurring outside Prince's Building, as the tai-tais went about their business. But when we pointed this out, the police sergeant smiled and said: "Oh, we'll deal with that another day."
So jaywalkers get ticketed while illegal car parkers, which is a major scourge in Central and elsewhere, do not. This arbitrary choice by the police as to which of Hong Kong's laws it chooses to enforce is hardly an encouragement to observing the law. Jaywalkers have every reason to feel aggrieved when the far greater menace of illegal parking goes virtually unpunished.
The hand-wringing by the authorities over the Occupy Central movement is laughable. Central has already been occupied by a major irritant to everyday life - the seven-seaters. They are a far greater pain than Occupy Central will ever be.
A Plus at the end of the tunnel
When HSBC decided to opt for UnionPay as its main payment network for its ATM cards, it set off howls of outrage from its customers as reports flooded in from disparate parts of the world over difficulties in extracting money from ATMs. The card is virtually useless outside Asia. Even ATMs in Europe that showed the UnionPay logo failed to work. The saga has not helped the bank's reputation.
However, we have heard some good news from a reader who visited Ethiopia recently. He assures us that the card works there.
We checked to see if HSBC's plans to issue customers with an alternative card using the Plus payment network were still on track. It gave Lai See the following statement: "HSBC would like to apologise to its customers who have been inconvenienced by the recent changes in our ATM arrangements.
"We have said we would offer the customers an additional ATM card that can access the Plus ATM chip card network worldwide. We are on schedule to deliver on that promise in October."
No cure yet for 'too big to fail'
Five years after Lehman's collapse the financial system is still bedevilled by systemic risk. While new regulations have been introduced, they haven't addressed the central problem, according to Richard Saunders, former CEO of the Investment Management Association. He told Financial News: "A lot of the regulatory response since Lehman - the focus on hedge funds and on credit rating agencies, for example - has been displacement activity from the real problem, which is what to do about institutions that are too big to fail."
Others argue that much of the regulation deals with fixing past issues that were a problem in 2008. But the remedies could lead to other problems.
Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, spoke to the newspaper about the problem, for example, of taking derivatives off "opaque balance sheets" and forcing them to trade through clearing houses and exchanges. This may be concentrating risk and making these institutions, like the banks, "too big to fail".
An interesting tale from the Economic Observer website reports that many affluent mainland Chinese are avid buyers of London property. Barratt Homes, Britain's largest residential developer with a 60 per cent share of London's newly built market, says it sold 2,250 housing units to mainland clients in 2012, accounting for 15 per cent of its sales.