Child protection

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 1996, 12:00am

How many more times will a child be injured or killed when locked up alone in the house before something is done to stop such tragedies? Tuesday's drama, in which a five-year-old was burned, is not a rare event. They are depressingly common. Hundreds of children are killed or maimed this way. Between 1989 and 1994, 130 children died because the adults supposed to protect them walked out and locked the door behind them, so that, as in the Kwai Chung case, rescuers could only stand helplessly by.

That figure does not accurately reflect the full scale of this scandal since it comes from coroners reports. How many more were injured, maimed or merely terrified? How many died days later, in hospital, without the need for an inquest? This is a shaming reflection on a society which should be able to pride itself on its social conscience? Legislators yesterday made indignant speeches about lack of welfare provision for the elderly. What about our children? There is never any excuse for abandoning children. The social services will always help, if asked. The plain fact is that the practice is widespread in Hong Kong, and barely frowned on. Until laws are introduced making it illegal to leave children unattended in this way, nothing will change.