All Hong Kong children must be protected, including victims of hidden harm

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 9:37pm

There has been a tremendous outcry over the recent spate of cases of children being abused, bullied and sexually harassed in kindergartens, preschool and primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong and in many other cities around the globe. So it is clear there is a desperate need to ensure quality care and protection in family situations, child care, schools and in the community at large, with a comprehensive child protection system in Hong Kong.

The government is reviewing child abuse handling procedural guidelines and considering reviews in child care and the early childhood and primary and secondary education curriculums. At the same time we must ensure the scope of protection is wide enough to cover children of all ages in all circumstances, especially when it comes to hidden harm.

We must of course make sure a swift and effective service is offered to victims (and their families) who are frequently and seriously harmed. Yet for a system to be proactive and to meet the government’s goal of zero tolerance for violence, complaints by first-time young victims, and children with less serious issues or hidden harm, should not be taken lightly and must never be ignored. To narrow the scope of attention to only more serious cases would be a step backward.

For people whose jobs involve interaction with children, there must be ongoing multidisciplinary training, and sufficient staff support and supervision.

Only the government has the power to ensure children are properly protected. It has at its disposal the resources needed to make a difference and to ensure proactive systems are in place. These systems can collect data and evidence to trace trends and characteristics of children’s well-being and show when their rights are not being respected. Such systems can help with the formulation of policies that are in the best interests of children. The only thing lacking with our administration is the determination to set up such systems.

The government must not let down our children. The new commission on children should appoint the best-qualified personnel. And it must embrace the highest standards based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for all children under the age of 18. It must be given a high mandate to ensure sustainable and proactive reforms for children.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, chairperson, Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights