Tomorrow, on Universal Children's Day, the Legislative Council will debate establishing a child commission. In 2007, it unanimously passed a motion urging Hong Kong to set up this commission, to ensure a child perspective in government policies. But the government has yet to do so.
Child advocates urge legislators to once again vote for children and ensure the government puts the necessary resources in place for the sustainable development of Hong Kong and honours its commitments for children. Any motion passed will be non-binding, but it would send a loud and clear message to the administration and the community that we must act swiftly.
Hong Kong has missed a lot of opportunities to attend to children's pressing needs. A long list of such needs of children in difficult circumstances has been included in the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observation after the hearing of the Hong Kong SAR report, in September in Geneva. A group of 36 organisations have made an appeal to the government and 26 organisations attended the Legislative Council constitutional affairs panel meeting yesterday, appealing for action.
There is a lack of: a baseline study on the progress of child rights development; a central data bank to systematically trace child-related trends and characteristics; and plan of action for the UN committee's recommendations. This makes implementation of such recommendations and measuring progress difficult. Unless the systems called for are put in place, we will be creating the same problems repeatedly and thus doing a serious disservice to children.
The government is overwhelmed by political, economic and other pressing matters. Children's voices are not heard and their needs, unless in traumatic circumstances, are not seen as priorities, but put on hold.
Children cannot wait, as their development could be permanently impaired if they are deprived of opportunities or a proper environment conducive to growth. If we want women to join the workforce, we cannot overlook the rights to high-quality child care and education.
We need a child commission that makes child rights visible in policymaking, handles complaints on rights violations, and promotes equity and participation. No single available mechanism alone, government or non-governmental, can proactively perform such roles.
Hong Kong can prove to the world that we cherish beyond rhetoric the 1.1 million children who are under 18.
Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, vice-chairperson, the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights