Hong Kong’s children deserve a higher spot on Carrie Lam’s priorities list
Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2017 policy address announced the formation of a Commission on Children – a long overdue platform solely for children under the age of 18. On June 1, the Commission on Children was formed under the Hong Kong government, though its legal mandate, independence and some other important elements have not yet been settled.
The commission’s terms of reference state its commitment to “ensuring Hong Kong is a place where all children's rights, interests and well-being are respected and safeguarded, their voices are heard, and where all children enjoy healthy and happy growth and optimal development so as to achieve their fullest potential”.
This vision should have been captured in the 2018 policy address. The Commission on Children should have stood out clearly in the policy address for its role in helping formulate policies and building consensus in the community to uphold children’s rights. The commission should also confront child rights violations by committing more resources to the strengthening of effective protections.
Watch: Highlights of Carrie Lam’s policy address 2018
However, the policy address’ description of the commission is not very different from the government’s previous press releases. There is no clear commitment on the budget for the commission which is supposed to oversee policies related to Hong Kong’s 1.1 million children.
The policy address, however, used ample space in the “Connecting with Young People” section to focus on those who are aged 18 and over. Both the Commission on Children and the Youth Development Commission are chaired by the chief secretary.
The policy address continues to integrate children’s needs under broad headings such as “education” and “social welfare”. We urge the government to use a child rights lens to increase the visibility of children in our society. Our policy direction for children should transcend the usual welfare-based mindset and include how to empower children as active citizens in matters related to them. If we do not foster children who are active citizens today, our hopes of active youth citizens in the future are extravagant.
The 2018-19 government budget earmarked HK$33.2 million “to promote the well-being and interests of women in Hong Kong, and to support the Women’s Commission’s mission to enable women to fully realise their due status, rights and opportunities in all aspects of life”. Another HK$534.1 million was earmarked for youth development, social harmony and civic education though no disaggregated data for youth development or the Youth Development Commission could be clearly identified. The Commission on Children needs a reasonable budget comparable to these commissions to implement new initiatives to address the needs of children in our community.
Lam pledged to hold chief executive summits on important policy areas that would include youth development and innovation and technology next year. We call on the chief executive to put a “children’s summit” on her agenda as well.
Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary, Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights