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No efforts spared in locating absentee Hong Kong pupils, education official says

Legislative panel hears that if repeated attempts to contact children and their families fail, the cases would be referred to other authorities such as police

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 9:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 11:05pm

Hong Kong education officials are redoubling their efforts to contact 162 pupils who missed school from 2011 to 2016, vowing to no longer close such cases of absenteeism and instead refer them to police or social welfare authorities.

Deputy Secretary for Education Woo Chun-sing told the Legislative Council subcommittee on children’s rights on Wednesday that after reviewing how cases of non-attendance were handled, the Education Bureau adopted more stringent procedures, including increasing the number of its home visits and phone calls as well as boosting interdepartmental collaboration.

If the bureau still could not reach pupils or their families despite repeated attempts and inquiries, it would refer the case to other departments such as police or the Social Welfare Department for follow-up.

Hong Kong kindergarten pupils absent more than seven days must be reported, officials say

“More important, the bureau will follow up every non-attendance case thoroughly and will not close any cases because it is unable to contact the pupils or their parents,” Woo said in describing the change in protocol.

Crusade Yau, chief superintendent of crime support, said police officers would follow their usual procedures for handling missing persons cases, such as publishing information on social media.

The new procedures came more than half a year after the shocking discovery of the bodies of a mother, 48, and her son, 15, in their flat weeks after they had died.

The bureau later admitted its staff had attempted but failed to get in touch with the teenager and his family after he started skipping classes in 2011. The bureau stopped following the case in mid-2012.

At the Legco meeting, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung asked what would happen to the 162 pupils revealed to have been absent and unreachable in the school years from 2011/2012 to 2015/16.

Woo said the bureau would restart the process of following up each case.

But Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung lamented it was too late for the bureau, saying it would be extraordinarily difficult to find the pupils.