Policy 'may violate human rights' A special education needs pressure group has complained to the United Nations that the non-Chinese-speaking children it represents are being discriminated against. Growing Together submitted its appeal to Unesco in New York last week and is arranging a meeting. The group represents five NGOs and more than 200 members. Chairwoman Virginia Wilson said the children it represented were the victims of language discrimination. 'We want to know if the current policies in Hong Kong are going against basic human rights and the international convention protecting people with disabilities,' Ms Wilson said. 'Because we are not making enough noise, the Education Bureau can't be bothered. 'It can't be bothered because it is not an educator, it is only in the business of education.' The complaint to the UN follows a parents' plea to the Legislative Council last month urging the government to fund non-Chinese-speaking children with special education needs the same way as they did their Chinese-speaking counterparts. The government came under fire for telling parents they could send their children to local public schools, where there would be enough places. Parents responded saying that international research showed children with special education needs benefited from being educated in their native language. Most non-Chinese-speaking children with special needs find themselves on a one to three-year waiting list for places, with many families being advised to avoid Hong Kong. A spokesman for Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung reiterated the government's stand on integration, saying it had allocated additional funding for the next academic year to the local school sector to enhance special needs support. 'Non-Chinese-speaking students studying in these schools will also benefit,' the spokesman said. He said the government also provided HK$2 million funding to the English Schools Foundation to subsidise 21 extra learning support places in three primary schools in 2006. Despite being the largest provider of special needs education for English speakers in Hong Kong, the ESF can only offer 126 places for children capable of learning in ordinary classrooms with learning support. Jockey Club Sarah Roe School provides another 60 places for those in need of intensive support, but there are waiting lists of up to three years. Civic Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said he had discussed the issue with Mr Suen, who had told him he could not find room to deploy extra resources for non-Chinese-speaking children. 'He said the government only had limited resources and it had already increased funding for the special education sector as a whole.' Dr Cheung said it was unreasonable to integrate the children into the local school system. 'Given that English is also an official language here, unless we are saying we prefer Chinese to English, we can't discriminate against those who use English,' Dr Cheung said. 'I think given the dire need, the government really needs to face up to the problem. We are going to discuss this in the Legco education panel meeting on June 12 and I hope that by then the government will have changed its position.' Ms Wilson said she was disappointed with government's decision. 'Denying a child access to appropriate services based on their language is a denial of a basic human right.' She accused the government of ignoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Beijing ratified in March last year. 'We need Unesco to point out that Hong Kong's policies are against the international convention to which China is a signatory.' Executive councillor and lawmaker Bernard Chan said he had received many complaints from expatriate families over the lack of special education schooling and urged the government to further increase funding to the ESF as part of a solution. 'International talent is shying away from Hong Kong,' Mr Chan said. 'If we want to retain talent, we need to come up with something. We can't just shift the children around. Sending them to local schools is obviously not an answer.'