Children make their voices heard at launch of rights campaign

Kids turn out for the launch of a campaign for an independent body to protect their rights

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 9:00am

More than 1,000 children and parents took part in the launch of the 1.1 Million Children Campaign at the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade yesterday to urge the government to set up an independent body for children's rights.

Dr Chow Chun-bong, chairman of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, said there were about 1.1 million people in the city under the age of 18, but their voices were rarely heard in the policymaking process.

"We hope, by setting up a children's commission, that children's voices will be heard and not ignored or smothered by parents' expectations," he said.

He said many children in Hong Kong, especially those in lower-income families, did not receive adequate protection and felt insecure, while others were subject to over-controlling or overly protective "helicopter parents" who did not allow them to live independently.

Chow said both situations put children in unfavourable situations that may hinder growth.

An independent body would come up with ways to support families living in poverty, especially those with a child under the age of three, because between the "ages of one and three is the golden time for cognitive development", Chow said.

"The income gap in society is wider than it was 10 years ago. Children do not choose to be born into intergenerational poverty, or to grow up in deprivation without enough to eat or a decent education, or to lose everything they once had to illness or a bad economy. Poverty is never a choice for them," Chow said.

At the other end of the scale, children from better-off families are often found to be clingy and their parents overly protective.

"Increasing affluence and shrinking family sizes mean parents can afford to devote more time and attention to their loved ones nowadays, but producing a generation incapable of taking care of themselves is not what we want to see," Chow said.

The proposed commission would encourage children to participate in deciding their future and would work to ensure children's voices are considered in matters related to them, such as education policies, community facilities, playgrounds and children's hospitals.

"Children would not only learn about their rights but also duties and responsibilities," Chow said.

At the ceremony for the campaign launch, a transparent canvas was hung up for children to draw their ideal city layout. One child wrote "better air quality".

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended back in 2005 that the government establish a children's commission. The recommendation was part of the UN's observations on Hong Kong's child rights situation.

Chow said his committee had gained support from the city's welfare and legal sectors and was now looking for support from other sections of Hong Kong's community.