Set up children's commission, local and foreign advocates urge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 5:17am

Hong Kong cannot afford to delay establishing a statutory body to oversee children's rights and welfare, local and foreign advocates warn.

Despite calls in the past two decades to set up such a commission, the government had yet to show commitment to the issue, said Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights.

Last Wednesday Wong had a 15-minute meeting with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to explain why the city should set up a children's commission. They were joined by Reidar Hjermann, Norway's former ombudsman for children, and Alasdair Roy, the Australian Capital Territory's commissioner for children and young people.

Wong said Leung told them that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the Department of Justice would study the issue.

Leung later said through his office that he would "listen to different views".

Katherine Lynch, a children's rights advocate and a University of Hong Kong law professor, said the proposed commission would contribute to policymaking and that it should not be seen as a government critic.

Lynch said she and her fellow activists would continue to hold talks with the authorities and work with the justice department to set up the commission.

HKU co-organised the second Children's Issues Forum at its campus last week.

Hjermann said a commission was not just about "sending rhetorical messages about children's rights", but it had a major role in protecting and improving children's welfare.

He said his commission in Norway had helped to identify thousands of abused children in northern Europe after it alerted dentists that poor dental conditions could indicate negligence or even sexual abuse.