Parts of Hong Kong make me uneasy. It's not the frenetic pace, heat or crowds. It's the design ethos aimed at making life comfortable for the rich and hard for the poor.

From the carefully chosen scents to the soft lighting and friendly staff, everything in our high-end hotels and malls is welcoming.

The same cannot be said about the rest of Hong Kong. City planners seem to have undergone hostile environment training to make public spaces unwelcoming to the poor. It's the small things: forward-slanting park benches with dividers between seats designed to prevent loitering. Little consideration has been given to the grandmother who might need to lie down for a moment or the man of a larger body type.

How about the aggressive signs that tell people to keep off a lush green lawn that anywhere else in the world would make the perfect picnic spot? In a city where low-income families live in shoe boxes, do we really need to limit access to public greenery?

Even in those spaces that are open to the public, it's clear certain groups are more welcome than others: the decision to water the grass or clean these sites on Sundays - the one day the city's 300,000-plus domestic helpers are off work - is telling. Then there are the anti-homeless spikes underneath highways, and rocks placed strategically to stop people seeking shelter.

Consider this: when people started lounging on the sofas and sleeping on the beds in Ikea, the Swedish store didn't get aggressive with loiterers. Polite signs were erected, reading: "Please let others have a chance to sit down here."

What a difference that tone makes.