Bid for tougher penalties on bars
THE chairman of the Commission for Youth, Mr Eric Li Ka-cheung, is to ask the Judiciary to impose tougher penalties on bars and restaurants caught operating without a licence and serving alcohol to minors.
The decision to ask for stiffer punishment followed a meeting between the chairman and representatives from the departments of Health and Welfare, Security, Education and Manpower, and Recreation and Culture, as well as the City and New Territories Administration.
The meeting was called to address growing concern over the problem of abuse of alcohol by young people.
''I am going to write to the Judiciary asking them to consider more appropriate sentences,'' said Mr Li.
But the meeting fell short of agreeing to call for a change in legislation to make it illegal for shops to sell alcohol to minors.
''There are not a lot of cases prosecuted and the courts are not handing out jail sentences. Sentencing is not reflecting the rising public concern,'' said Mr Li.
He suggested that the Urban and Regional councils be approached about helping to enforce existing legislation.
''We are not closing the door on the review of legislation, but before we have a clear picture of the extent of the problem, we are not suggesting major changes.'' Mr Li said the lack of comprehensive data on the problem was an area the panel agreed demanded attention. A draft copy of a survey completed last month by the commission stated that ''very little research has been done to allow any accurate estimate of the extent to which young people in Hongkong abuse alcohol''.
Mr Li said: ''No one is co-ordinating the work and no one is taking over to look at the issue.'' The tragedy of suicide among young people was also addressed by the panel, which came up with three main recommendations.
A detailed survey of young people was again put at the top of the agenda, followed by the need for a hotline dedicated to dealing with young people contemplating suicide.
Thirdly, it was suggested that a forum be held to ask the advice of the media and the public on how to tackle the issue.