Government must heed desperate cries of abused children in HK

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 July, 2016, 12:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 July, 2016, 10:04pm

I cannot agree more with Fok Pui-yi (“More must be done to help at-risk children”, July 14).

These children do need more help and the government must acquire a long-term and strategic approach together with NGOs and the community to ensure a safe and child-friendly Hong Kong.

More will only be done if our government recognises there is a pressing need and hears the desperate cries of our children. The range of risks and harm for our children is extensive. It includes the more obvious physical harm caused by humiliating aggressive, if not violent disciplinary parenting and the hidden harm such as children witnessing domestic violence, living with addictive and abusive parents, and living under poverty or discrimination.

Leaving children unattended has led to tragic deaths. Lack of supervision exposes children to bullying and sex traps which become more prevalent in the internet virtual world. Child pornography and child sexual abuse, by people whom the children look up to, such as parents, relatives, friends of parents, siblings, tutors, trainers, caretakers and pastors adversely impact on children’s development and subsequent lives, with intergenerational consequences.

Depressive and self-harming behaviour are prevalent even among the very young. In a recent survey, 51 per cent of secondary school respondents indicated depressive symptoms and a quarter had considered suicide.

In 2015, 15 out of 34 schoolchildren who committed suicide were under the age of 18.

In 2014 there were 3,054 post-birth registrations after 42 days but within one year. The community was alerted to the risks of unregistered child births, only when an unregistered teenager took her own life. Such late registration or no registration may contribute to deprivation or delay of education, medical or social attention for the child. The recent case of the five-year-old child, killed by extremely excessive drugs in his body opened society’s eyes to the hidden harm of children under the care of substance abusive parents/carers.

These concerns can only be tackled with long-term commitment. The setting up of a child commission (200 of them have already been established globally), helps to formulate child policies and monitor the implementation of a coherent and effective action plan.

With the Legislative Council and chief executive elections coming up, we look forward to candidates who can make a difference for children, who are the future of Hong Kong.

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