Swift action needed on protecting Hong Kong children’s rights as risks multiply

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 9:36pm

The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights understands that the Social Welfare Department is conducting a three-year review on the Procedural Guide of the Handling of Child Abuse Cases.

The government needs to explain why this review should take so long, given the urgency of the matter.

How will it ensure adequate representation and participation in the review panel to make it worthwhile?

We believe that a fundamental review is long overdue. It must start by asking how in Hong Kong we define a child’s holistic well-being and how we protect and strengthen it if that child is abused.

What are the factors unique to our society that contribute to the risks posed to those who we define as children in our society, that is, those under the age of 18?

There are many areas of hidden harm faced by children which have emerged in the past decade. They have been omitted from official definitions of child abuse. They include children exposed to domestic violence, under the care of parents who are substance abusers, or whose parents did not register their birth.

There might be cases that would be defined as criminal offences in other jurisdictions, but not in Hong Kong.

The report of an international organisation has alerted Hong Kong to the risks of child prostitution, trafficking and children being manipulated for sex tourism. Despite the fact that no data and no reported cases were found by either the government or NGOs in the city, growing online risks and cross-border concerns must not be underestimated.

A long list of pressing needs for our children must be swiftly analysed and confronted.

That is why the Committee on Children’s Rights has been consistently calling for periodic baseline studies and effective operational plans.

These plans should include greater community participation and the establishment of a child commission. They must determine how best to protect children and effectively ensure a dignified perspective for an inclusive, caring, just society that treasures our young and old.

Let us effect a change of mindset for children, through passionate involvement of children, advocates for children and adults who were victims of abuse as children.

We also need the participation of professionals from different sectors, including social work, health care, law enforcement, the judiciary and the media.

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