Children's Council powers through votes
In a mock Legislative Council meeting last Saturday, 45 'child councillors' called for a bilingual learning curriculum for ethnic minorities, protection for cyber-bullying victims and children's participation in parents' divorce.
The Children's Council, now in its eighth year, is jointly organised by Against Child Abuse, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights.
In the first motion, child councillors, aged 12 to 17, argued that a lack of Cantonese proficiency barred children from South Asian ethnicities from mainstream and post-secondary education.
They citied a survey conducted by the Society for the Protection of Children last year which found that 60 per cent of respondents' Cantonese could not meet their daily needs. The councillors suggested the government standardise the curriculum for learning Cantonese as a second language, teach Cantonese using English, and promote its importance among the parents of these children.
In the second debate, another team of councillors discussed cyber-bullying.
They called for heavier penalties and more control over privacy to combat cyber-bullying. They also proposed that hotline services be set up and e-social workers be introduced.
The third motion covered children's right to express their opinion in their parents' divorce, an event which directly influences a child's development.
The councillors said that currently there are limited channels for children's voices to be heard and they are often unaware of their existence. They recommended the government train judges to communicate with children, offer stress-free meetings for children with judges and publicise the services.
In the final votes, all motions were passed.
Civic Party leader Leung Ka-kit appreciated how the youngsters debated the issues.
He added that Legco should learn from the students. 'The swiftness in Children's Council's procedures beat that of Legco,' Leung said. 'And it is good that there is no avoiding a sharp question.'
Children's councillor, Leung Ka-wai, said: 'Children's Council gave us a platform to voice our opinions and understand children's rights ... whether or not our motions get passed. We hope every child like us will have power to choose their future.'
The councillors' motions will be published as a book and sent to the city's officials for consideration.