Previous month:
December 2008
Next month:
February 2009

English? I'm sure it's here somewhere

How difficult can it be to have Chinese as the default language on your website whilst providing easy access to the English version?


Well, starts off promisingly with a front page that has both English and Chinese, but then dumps you on to a page that is entirely in Chinese. 

If you hunt around you will probably find the button that allows you to change the language (see left).  Maybe you are supposed to guess what it's supposed to do?


Next we have the drop-down box for you to select which version of the site you wish to view (see right).  I had problems with this in Google Chrome, but luckily it works OK in Internet Explorer.

As we can see, this is not really a language selection thingy, it's for you to choose which of their international sites you want to view.  So it ought to have a small globe as its symbol to make its function clear, surely?

And what would someone who accesses the Hong Kong site be likely to want?  Probably not the Argentinian or Austrian or Belgian versions of the site.  I think they would be most likely to want either the English or Chinese versions of the Hong Kong site.

So couldn't they just put an "English" button on the Chinese version and  中文 on the English version to allow you to switch languages?  Wouldn't that be simpler?

There's a final "gotcha" after you select Hong Kong/English: image

Let's blame it on the economic crisis

More poorly thought-out "news" from the SCMP:

Residential construction at lowest level since 1997

Flats being built drop to 8,000 as economic crisis takes toll

Yvonne Liu
Jan 24, 2009

Construction and completion of private residential units in Hong Kong last year slumped to the lowest since records began in 1997, underscoring the severe impact the global economic decline is having on the property market.

The latest figures from the Transport and Housing Bureau show only 8,000 units were being built by the end of last year, 38 per cent fewer than the 12,900 units a year earlier. About 8,800 private project units were completed last year, down 16 per cent from 10,500 units in 2007.

Really?  When did this economic crisis begin, then?  Early enough in the year to make property developers change their plans?  I think not. 

Fortunately they have interviewed one expert who seems to understand what really happened:

Charles Chan Chiu-kwok, an executive director at Savills Valuation and Professional Services, said tight supply was the result of developers becoming more conservative in land acquisitions after property prices jumped sharply in 2007. "They worried the property market would enter a down cycle."

Mr Chan expects tight supply in the residential market to continue this year.

Property developers in Hong Kong are not daft.  They acquire land when they prices are low and hope to sell when prices are high.  However, that's not a news story, whereas the global economic crisis is.

We need a 1500 word article and a couple of charts...

imageToday's Sunday Morning Post has an article about the way banks rip you off with a "currency-linked deposit" account.  These are widely available in Hong Kong because the interest rates on a standard local currency deposit account are almost zero.

The article has a small chart which is supposed to show how the Australian Dollar exchange rate has fluctuated over the last twelve months. 

However, look closely and you may notice two things. 

  • The date range shown is 1-12 January 2008 and 1 January 2009.  Er?
  • Apparently the Australian Dollar went up every day/month.  Yes, that's "up" from 7.365 on 08/01/08 to 6.7017 on 09/01/08.

The article is also staggeringly dull, and could be summarised in about two paragraphs (basically the banks penalize you if the chosen currency falls, and don't reward you if it rises).  However, it appears that "Alan Alanson" is paid by the word:

Investors bear brunt of risk with little return to match


If you put HK$100,000 in an ordinary term deposit with most banks in Hong Kong for one month, the interest rate, about 0.01 per cent per annum, would come to less than HK$1 a month. If, instead, you purchased a currency-linked deposit in Hong Kong dollars linked to Australian dollars, say, the interest rate offered would be much higher. It would not be unusual for you to be offered a rate as high as 15 per cent per annum. Assuming a deposit period of one month, that would work out at 1.25 per cent, or HK$1,250 a month.

The "currency link" part of a currency-linked deposit means that although the investor's deposit is in HKD, it is linked to some other currency, in this case AUD. If the HKD rises against the AUD during the term of the deposit, investors get their deposit back in AUD instead of in HKD. The exchange rate used to calculate how much the investor receives in AUD is not the exchange rate applicable on the day the deposit matures, but an exchange-rate target set at the beginning of the deposit period.

The exchange-rate target will be at a slight discount to the actual exchange rate when you purchase the currency-linked deposit. Assume the AUD-linked deposit you buy has an exchange rate target of 5.32. So on the day the deposit matures, if AUD buys less than 5.32 Hong Kong dollars, the investor gets AUD instead of HKD at the exchange-rate target, not the actual exchange rate.

Assuming the deposit is for a month, if one month after you buy this product, the AUD only buys 5 HKD, you buy AUD at the higher rate of 5.32 even though AUD is only worth 5 on that day. That would represent a 6 per cent loss of your original capital, which, netted off against the 1.25 per cent interest that you still get, would mean a loss of 4.75 per cent for the month, which on an annual basis would be a 57 per cent loss.

On the other hand, if the AUD increases in value against the HKD, the investor will not get the benefit of currency gains. If it rises against the HKD, the investor still just gets back her HK$100,000 and the 1.25 per cent interest. This is where the mismatch between risk and return arises.

Hey, he finally got to the point after 547 words.  Amazingly there are another 970 words to go.

By the way, HSBC are currently offering 10.04% "interest" on a deposit in Australian Dollars. 

[update - 25/1/09].  Today's SCMP has some readers' responses to the article.  One points out the two glaring errors in the chart, whilst someone else offers a rather more concise description of this product, which is a deposit account and a currency option contract.  Indeed - the 10.04% "interest" is nothing of the sort, and far higher than you could actually get by depositing Australian Dollars in an Australian bank. 

Beware of the zebra

As far as I am aware, there aren't any zebra crossings on public roads in Hong Kong. There are lots of crossings with lights, and some places where there is a central refuge and you can take your life into your hands, and many, many, pedestrian bridges and tunnels.  

But the only zebra crossings are on private roads, and so most people seem to be rather confused by these rare beasts.

This is what you do.  If there is traffic, you may to have let a few vehicles go, but then you take a step or two forwards (and this is important) whilst making eye contact with the driver of the next vehicle so that he knows you are going to cross. Then off you go.

In the UK, drivers fully expect this, and should be ready to stop.  In Hong Kong they often seem rather surprised, but they do stop.  Usually. 

Locals normally seem to wait for a break in the traffic before crossing.  That's not going to work, because most drivers aren't going to stop if they can help it.