Family violence in Hong Kong mars reputation of a 'safe' city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 3:17am

Hong Kong is famously a safe city with a low murder rate. That gives an impression that all is well. Yet three apparently unrelated recent cases seem to tell a different story. They involve extreme violence and anger against family members, and they should not be dismissed as merely more instances of domestic violence.

In the first, a 29-year-old man allegedly killed his elderly parents and dismembered their bodies. The following day, a youth of 18 was accused by police of stabbing his father to death and seriously wounding his stepmother. Next, a woman leapt to her death after killing her lover. The dramas have understandably caused shock and generated much discussion.

Conflict between generations is not new. Changing lifestyles, social values and upbringing means parents and children do not often see eye to eye. But differences in opinion are not an excuse for violence. In Chinese societies, where younger generations are taught to respect and obey elders, any break with tradition is worrying.

The sons in two of the cases shared a common background. Both were jobless and addicted to video games. We can only speculate what prompted such violence; it is for the court to decide the reason. But we know only too well that those on the margins of society are the ones most likely to go astray.

Social researchers and commentators have long worried about pressures on children. They point to a highly competitive education system and the expectations of parents. The quality jobs university students expect to find on graduation are not always as plentiful as they are led to believe. They want to strike out on their own but, without the financial means, have no choice other than to stay in the family home.

It is easy to see how young people, disillusioned and pressured, could turn from the real world to a virtual one. A healthy society requires all involved to work together to create the best conditions. Better family and youth support, with the government's help, is a good place to start.