Require sexual conviction reviews for those working with Hong Kong children, group urges

Child protection body highlights loopholes in scheme amid investigation of claims that male teacher molested two sisters at local school

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 1:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 11:14pm

A scheme for employers in Hong Kong to review the sexual conviction record of those working with children should be legislated and made available to parents, a child protection group has said.

The call came as police were investigating claims a 40-year-old male teacher molested two sisters, aged 17 and 18, who study at a secondary school in Sham Shui Po.

Speaking on a radio programme, End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation executive director Michelle Tam highlighted several loopholes in the current scheme.

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She said the scheme was not mandatory and that the sexual conviction record of an employee was only checked if an employer made such a request.

“For example, if a tuition centre is in a hurry to get a substitute teacher, it might not do such a check,” she added.

If a tuition centre is in a hurry to get a substitute teacher, it might not do such a check
Michelle Tam, End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation

Tam said schools operating under the Education Bureau performed these reviews. But a foundation study a few years ago of 1,700 private tuition centres in the city found that fewer than 20 per cent carried out reviews.

Tam added that those convicted could still use different ways to approach children.

“If a person is convicted, he could become a private tutor or teach at a private tuition centre, where the employer might not check,” she said.

“Moreover, parents are not able to use the scheme when they hire private tutors.”

Tam cited another loophole: that reviews were only available for newly employed staff, not existing ones or school volunteers.

Lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu, appearing on the same radio programme, said yet another loophole was that when a teacher resigns voluntarily as a school begins an investigation, his or her record would not necessarily be updated.

“We understand that the teacher [in the Sham Shui Po case] is interviewing or teaching in other schools, and it could be a special education needs school, but we have not been able to get a response from the Education Bureau,” he added.

But a police source told the Post on Monday that the teacher was not now teaching at another school.

Tam called for record reviews to be legislated, made available to parents and extended to existing employees.

“It is legislated in some countries and states,” she said. “For example, there is a register that anyone can access to find out whether a person was convicted of sexual crimes.”

Kwong believed the bureau should have quickly referred the Sham Shui Po case to the Council on Professional Conduct in Education.

Tam also offered parents tips on how to protect their children. She said they should not arrange for private tutors to be alone with their children in a room and that they should check whether there are windows and CCTV at private tuition centres to ensure the lessons can be observed.

A bureau spokesman said on Tuesday that it was following up on the incident and providing support for the school, but would not comment due to an ongoing police investigation.

He also said that if a teacher was under investigation for a serious offence during employment, he must be immediately reported to the school and the school to the bureau – even if he had not been convicted – so that the bureau could examine whether he is fit to teach.

The spokesman also said that while the review was voluntary, the bureau had issued notices to strongly recommend schools to adopt the scheme in their hiring to ensure pupils’ safety.