Hong Kong’s beauty industry has a responsibility to raise safety standards

Only legislation enabling regulation of the use of medical devices and procedures outside the city’s hospitals and a licensed medical regime will properly safeguard potentially vulnerable people

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 March, 2016, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 March, 2016, 11:22pm

A move by the beauty industry to introduce a measure of self-regulation is to be welcomed. It includes a quality mark for salons that meet professional benchmarks set by an industry standardisation organisation and assessed by the Federation of Beauty Industry (HK). But it will do nothing to clarify the blurred lines between health, beauty and medical treatment, a loophole highlighted by the deaths of two women receiving liposuction and blood transfusion beauty treatments, and another having electrotherapy, at private clinics over the past few years. And clinics most in breach of best practice can be expected to opt out of the industry’s attempt to put its house in order.

Only legislation enabling regulation of the use of medical devices and procedures outside the city’s hospitals and licensed medical regime will properly safeguard potentially vulnerable people. And there are many of them in a society that puts a premium on appearance and slowing of ageing for professional or social reasons.

Thankfully, these tragedies prompted the government to promise legislation that plugged a loophole in the medical clinic ordinance that does not outlaw procedures or devices which are claimed to be used only for health or beauty treatments rather than a medical purpose. Hopefully, officials will adhere to a time frame outlined last year by Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man for a study of regulation of high-risk medical devices and the launch of legislation this year. It ought not be delayed or derailed by an industry call for professional qualifications allowing non-medical practitioners to use medical instruments, or a belated attempt at responsible self-regulation.

The industry should press on with its own plan for professional standards, which includes recognition of certifications offered in Britain and Switzerland and continued professional development. It is reassuring that, according to the federation, at least 10 clinic chains have applied to be certified.