Hong Kong needs commission for children to be set up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 4:28am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 4:59am

As a child advocate, I believe that on June 1, International Children's Day, the community must be reminded that Hong Kong lacks a child perspective.

It is lacking in government planning and policies. Despite the fact that Hong Kong has numerous commissions overseeing areas from competition to women, youth and the elderly, there is still no independent commission for children.

There is a long list of pressing needs for children which have still not been realised. Policymakers would probably say they are too busy attending to "major issues" such as political reform and economic development.

Children are entitled to high-quality protection from violence, exploitation and discrimination. Punitive and humiliating forms of discipline are still prevalent, with profoundly adverse impacts on children's development. A recent survey conducted by Caritas Youth and Community Service indicated that two-thirds of the respondent students had been struck by their parents.

Violence breeds violence, and this vicious cycle shows no sign of abating despite decades of hard work by advocates. A policy backed by appropriate legislation is required to ensure children are raised as unique individuals with dignity in a non-violent and caring environment.

As family solidarity deteriorates, separation and divorce are common. Disputes over children's custody are frequent and, in some serious cases, children are abducted by parents.

The government is consulting NGOs to determine if child abduction by a parent should be made a crime. However, there has been no widespread public consultation on this issue.

There are also delicate and controversial ethical issues affecting children, such as same-sex marriage and whether or not gay couples could adopt children. You get conflicting messages from different sectors or even within the same sector - parents, teachers, church groups, policymakers and the mass media. This often leaves children confused.

To bring about fundamental changes for the well-being of children requires political will and action at the highest level. This, the 20th year after the extension of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to Hong Kong, is the time for our leaders to strengthen commitment and promptly create an effective platform for children and to integrate children's rights into policies and practices.

Children cannot wait. The time is now. Investing in children early is the way forward for any progressive society, and Hong Kong is no exception.

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