In a rare display of shared anger during the festive season, the chief executive and her welfare minister took to the internet to condemn alleged physical abuse of toddlers by staff at the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children. Police arrested three employees after reviewing surveillance footage. All are now on bail on serious charges. Meanwhile, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says the government will move as soon as possible to strengthen child protection, including mandatory reporting of suspected cases. Law Chi-kwong has ordered his department to investigate the circumstances, including monitoring of staff. ‘Heartbroken’ Hong Kong minister orders probe as 2 charged in child abuse case These are welcome responses. Hopefully the outcomes will reflect public outrage. Child abuse is an emotive subject. It takes only one figure suggesting the city has a growing problem with it to raise a red flag; an additional figure flashes red lights. When police figures tend to corroborate the first two there can be little argument about the need for more positive action to protect vulnerable children. The group Against Child Abuse reported a surge to 1,200 reports and inquiries involving 248 children aged six to 14 in 2020-21; then the Social Welfare Department reported 1,023 cases in the first nine months of this year, up by 57 per cent from the same period last year, and the police force said it had handled 871 cases in the first nine months, up by 66 per cent from 525 year on year. Police said physical abuse surged by 70 per cent to 444, with 130 cases involving children under six. What these figures have in common is that they reflect an apparent increase in child abuse during the coronavirus pandemic , with a weaker economy blamed for domestic stress and children spending less time in school. Ban corporal punishment in Hong Kong, child abuse concern group says This is a reminder that the social fabric is easily torn by sustained social and economic pressure. That said, children who lack the emotional and physical environment of a loving family are among the most vulnerable members of society. The agencies and staff who take care of them bear a solemn responsibility, as evidenced by the need to be registered with the government. At the same time they deserve due recognition and support. It is good that protection is to be strengthened by legislation. Meanwhile, the authorities need to take swift action to check supervision and monitoring at other agencies.