Alarming reaction to child reports

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong is such a safe city that even the merest suggestion that matters are not as usual drives parents into a frenzy. That is what seems to have happened after three young boys, the eldest in Primary Three, told parents that a stranger had approached them as they were leaving school and asked if they wanted to go with him to have tea. They said no and he went away. Yet alarm bells that a predator is on the loose are ringing.

More than 9,000 Facebook users signed an on-line petition calling on the Security Bureau to reveal the number of child abductions of late. Officials acknowledged that there have been 14 reported cases since February 2 and five are still being investigated, although no children have gone missing. But some parents are still not satisfied. There continues to be talk of kidnappers and paedophiles even though no crime, or even a hint of one, has taken place. Nothing is as precious as a child. Safety is of utmost concern for parents when they put their children in the care of others. Schools have to take every reasonable precaution to keep unwanted people from their premises and surroundings. Understandably, amid so much concern, the elite school from which the boys came, La Salle, stepped up security and other schools have followed suit.

Cases of kidnapping for ransom are not unusual on the mainland, but are extremely rare in Hong Kong. When it comes to serious crime, our city is among the safest in the world. Paedophilia rears its ugly head from time to time, but institutions that deal with children and police are alert to the dangers. That does not mean that we can let our guards down. Where children are concerned, we need to be vigilant.

Over-reaction, rumours and gossip have no place, though. Six of the cases handled by police came from misreports on the internet and three were misunderstandings; the case involving the La Salle boys is among those being looked into. But investigations alone are not reason for panic. Unless a crime has taken place, we should be alert, not alarmed.