A strongly worded report critical of the state of children's rights in Hong Kong has been issued by the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child. In the report on Hong Kong and China's progress in implementing a UN treaty on children's rights, the committee expresses grave concern on a number of issues. These range from the persistence of corporal punishment, to the existence of and lack of measures to combat poverty, and the lack of measures to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking. The many recommendations include setting up an independent children's commission to receive, investigate and address complaints and with 'teeth' to pressure officials to make changes. The UN has also asked the government to increase funding for handouts, which were cut following the Asian financial crisis in 1997, and for a comprehensive plan to implement the convention. Hong Kong is required to fulfil its obligations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child - ratified by China in 1992 - as a dependant territory. The 19-page report summarises deliberations at a two-day meeting last month between delegates from China, Hong Kong and Macau with UN officials in Geneva. It has been welcomed by local children's rights groups, who have long sought much needed reforms to combat child abuse. Other concerns voiced include: The persistence of discrimination against asylum seekers and undocumented migrant children, and the lack of guarantee for their education; Children's views are not systematically sought for policies or programmes affecting them; The separation of children from their parents due to quotas on migration from the mainland; The high incidence of teenage pregnancies and abortions; The high drop-out rates at schools, and bullying; The low age of criminal responsibility. The committee has recommended that the government: Speed up legislation against race and sex discrimination; The establishment of a body representing children's views in the political process; Banning corporal punishment; Establishing a poverty line; Abolishing life sentences for minors. Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights who was present during the Geneva meetings, said: 'The comments this time are more concrete and more practical. They want to see very concrete results from the Hong Kong government.' In a statement, the government said: 'We are carefully considering those recommendations with a view to further improving the government's work in protecting children's rights.'