HK ignoring children's views says UN

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2005, 12:00am

The SAR government has been criticised by a United Nations committee for not doing enough to protect children's rights.

Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher led a seven-member delegation to a meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland, this week.

The delegates discussed a report submitted by the SAR government on the steps that have been taken to protect the city's children.

At Tuesday's hearing, Mr Fisher said the government will set up a Children's Rights Forum by the end of the year. Funding will also be provided to carry out education programmes about children's rights, he said.

The forum will include government officials, children and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It will meet three to four times a year.

A total of $500,000 will be allocated every year to promote children's rights among the public, Mr Fisher said. These new initiatives were not included in the government's report. They were announced shortly before Mr Fisher left for Geneva last week.

The last-minute additions failed to impress the delegates and NGO representatives from Hong Kong.

Billy Wong Wai-yuk, who represented the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights in Geneva, said: 'Four out of seven members in the first round of questions addressed the need for an independent monitoring body for the rights of children in Hong Kong.'

Committee member Awa N'Deye Ouedraogo said she was worried that the views of the children 'are not systematically heard and [are] continuously being disregarded'.

Moushira Khattab, who has been appointed by the committee to prepare reports of the meeting, said the forum will just be another unit.

'We don't need new entities,' she said.

'We need explanations for not considering a Child Policy, a Child Ordinance and an Ombudsman for Children.'

The government rejected these proposals at a panel meeting of the Legislative Council in July, saying they were not necessary at the moment.

But the administration intends to adopt an international treaty signed in 1996 on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography.

The committee criticised the SAR for not adopting the treaty at the beginning of the conference.

'We will work diligently towards [applying the treaty],' Mr Fisher said.

The committee is expected to announce its findings on Hong Kong's children's rights within a few weeks.