Bullying must not be tolerated at schools
- The arrest of eight teenagers for assaulting a classmate has put the spotlight on cruel behaviour in Hong Kong, and now is not the time to play down such incidents
The arrest of eight teenagers for assaulting a classmate has put the spotlight on bullying in Hong Kong schools. The victim was seen trapped, stripped and abused by his peers in a video clip that went viral on social media. Whether their behaviour constitutes bullying or not is beside the point.
The act has clearly gone beyond what is acceptable. To the dismay of those who have expressed shock and concern, Yan Chai Hospital Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School has sought to play down the matter.
The students were just going too far when playing, the school said in a statement.
But, from the point of view of the police, this is obviously a serious matter. The students, aged 17 to 19, were released on bail.
Shortly after the incident came to light, another video emerged showing another alleged bullying case at the same school.
If a survey by a social enterprise last May is any reference, one in three teenagers aged 12 to 18 has experienced bullying in the past six months. Around 25 per cent also experienced cyberbullying.
Separately, an international survey put Hong Kong first among 53 places in terms of bullying. With about one-third of 15-year-old respondents claiming to have been bullied “at least a few times a month”, the problem is far worse than that in Singapore (25.1 per cent), Britain (23.9 per cent) and the United States (18.9 per cent), according to the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment.
It would seem naive to pretend that bullying does not exist in local schools. What matters is the need for serious attention and treatment when a case comes to light.
Whether the school management was actually aware of the alleged assault, which reportedly happened in March last year, remains unclear. But its media statement has given the impression that the case is not being handled seriously.
The growing use of social media has made bullying and misbehaviour of its kind more visible to the public eye.
Not surprisingly, such scandals tend to be played down or covered up, either out of protection for minors or the reputation of the schools involved. But this will be misinterpreted as tolerance of abuse.