Children lacking a voice in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 4:27am

A policy address that wins applause is one with a vision, that attempts to balance the interests of different groups.

This year's policy address lacks vision and a holistic approach. It is lopsided and a child perspective is absent.

Striving for such a perspective is not a naive notion. Indeed, acquiring such a perspective in society is a proactive and sustainable move. Given that the world and Hong Kong's population are ageing, investing in children is the only way forward.

The policy address places too much emphasis on economic development and spares little time tackling core values, such as ways to rescue deteriorating child development and family solidarity. It does not point to strategic improvement of opportunities for child growth and development.

Appointing child commissions and commissioners is a global trend. Given enough money and manpower, it can provide an independent platform solely for matters affecting children's lives. Such commissions exist in 70 countries and over 200 jurisdictions. Many of Hong Kong's non-governmental organisations and Legco - by a unanimous vote - back the establishment of a child commission.

The government has set up commissions for youth, the elderly and women, with their own budgets and administrations. Why not one for children? The chief executive announced the formation of more committees to tackle various issues, yet the long overdue child commission is not among them. Children are again left out in the cold.

Our children have no votes, power, or authority. Child advocates strive to make children's voices heard without being adversarial. We have always, in the best interest of children, avoided confrontational tactics such as involving the very young in protests, or taking aggressive measures to achieve campaign targets.

It would be a shame if that is why the government continues to turn a deaf ear to children's needs and refuses to confront a mindset, policies and practices which, on a fundamental level, are not child-friendly.

The policy address stresses international collaboration. Child advocates will address our frustrations at the Geneva pre-sessional meeting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on February 5. We will tell the world about the current deprivation of our children, and appeal for our government to appoint a child commission as soon as possible, so that a child perspective and proactive child policies can be put in place.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, vice-chairperson, Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights