Vow over protocol follows criticism by the world body An international treaty on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography may soon be extended to Hong Kong after the government pledged to adopt it at a United Nations hearing in Geneva yesterday. Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher told a UN hearing on Hong Kong and China under the Convention on the Rights of the Child that the government has 'every intention to apply' to the city the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. 'We in the HKSAR attach the greatest importance to the well-being of children,' Mr Fisher told the committee. 'The best interests of the child will be our general and guiding principle in all matters relating to the welfare and development of children.' During the two-day hearing, UN members questioned the Hong Kong delegation on issues ranging from child poverty to the lack of a centralised child policy and a children's commission. They dismissed claims of economic recession by the government as 'excuses' and said the newly formed Commission on Poverty and a Children's Rights Forum were not enough. Sze Lai-shan, community organiser of the Hong Kong Society for Community Organisation, who attended the Geneva hearing, said UN members were concerned about whether child labour and teenage prostitution were problems in Hong Kong. UN members welcomed the government's pledge to join the optional protocol, which already applies to the mainland and Macau, she said 'They were very concerned about the poverty issue and the problems refugee children face in Hong Kong because there is no refugee law,' Ms Sze said. The group puts the number of children in poverty at 373,400 based on figures from the Census and Statistics Department. 'They also called for compulsory training for parents who have abused their children in the past and for the age of criminal responsibility in Hong Kong to be raised,' Ms Sze said. Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, said the government should heed the UN's call and establish an 'independent and effective children's commission for 1.3 million children aged under 18 in Hong Kong'. The UN is expected to issue its concluding observations on Hong Kong in the next few weeks.