Hong Kong gets a new children’s commission
Panel, promised by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on the campaign trail, to look at children’s education needs and initiatives for ethnic minority children, including learning Chinese as a second language
Hong Kong’s government has set up a children’s commission, delivering on an election campaign pledge of the city leader and promising a “responsive and high-level body” working for the benefit of young residents.
The long-awaited panel, to be chaired by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and vice-chaired by Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong, will start work from Friday. It will target the needs of people aged below 18, with a focus on children aged 14 or below, according to a government spokesman.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the creation of the commission in her policy address in October, having promised to bring it about while campaigning for the top job.
According to the proposal by a preparatory committee, the commission might consider covering several issues in its initial work plan: children’s education needs, including help with special educational needs and the handling of absentee students; and initiatives for ethnic minority children, including learning Chinese as a second language.
Other issues included children’s healthy development, including medical needs and mental health; and child protection.
The commission is intended to develop policies and set strategies and priorities related to these issues, and oversee their implementation. It will also review child-related services by the government and non-governmental organisations and foster cross-sector collaboration.
Besides nine ex officio members, it has 21 non-official members from different sectors, including schools, health care, academia, concern groups, the legal profession and young people from ethnic minorities or who are non-Chinese-speaking.
Winson Chow Wai-chung, co-founder of Baby Kingdom, a popular online parenting community, and prominent children’s rights advocate Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, chairman of the Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights, were among appointees.
Two students each from City University and the law school of the University of Hong Kong were also appointed as non-official members.
Billy Wong Wai-yuk, executive secretary of the Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights, said she had mixed feelings about the news.
“I’ve been waiting [for today] for some 20 years. It finally came and we’re happy, but it is not the commission that we expected,” Wong said.
She noted that the newly formed commission was not independent from the government and had no legal mandate, meaning it could not monitor the administration on child-related issues and investigate violations.
She said she was disappointed by what she saw as a lack of children on the commission, adding that young people’s voices would help adults understand children.
But Cheung was keen to talk up the commission’s heft.
The chief secretary said: “Children’s growth and development is one of the priority policy areas of the current-term government.
“The commission will be an ongoing, action-oriented, responsive and high-level body that will drive the work for the benefit of children through policy formulation as well as coordination and follow-up on the implementation of measures.”