HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam not doing enough about child poverty, says youth group

Children's rights group gives government 23 out of 100 for its record on improving lives of the young and needy

Joanne Ma |

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Nearly 1.38 million of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people live below the poverty line, according to government figures.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, failed badly to improve the lives of the city’s poor children last year, a community youth group said on Sunday.

The group gave Lam’s administration just 23 points out of 100, two points worse than last year’s 25. But this was still better than the 15 and eight points that the government got in 2016 and 2015, respectively. In 2009, when Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was the city’s leader, the score was zero.

The score was given by the 2,800 members of the Children’s Rights Association, which comes under the Society for Community Organisation, a group dedicated to helping poor families. The members were mostly aged six to 18.

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In Lam’s 2018 Policy Address in October, she promised to allocate more resources for the Commission on Children to implement measures that safeguard the well-being of children. The commission, which was established by the government, focuses on tackling children’s issues. These issues include child care services and support for divorced or separated families.

Members of Children's Right Association photographed during a press conference on the 2018 Annual Report of Civil Children’s Ombudsman.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

However, “Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she has made the problem of housing her top priority”, said Leung Cheuk-ki, 16, and a “children’s ombudsman” for the association.

Leung and her family of four lived in a 200 sq ft subdivided flat for many years before they got a public flat several years ago. “Back then, I didn’t have my own room. I had to study and do my homework at the dining table. When my parents had to sleep, I could not do my homework any more because that would bother them,” she recalled.

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Last month, the government announced that nearly 1.38 million of the city’s 7.4 million people lived below the poverty line, which is set at 50 per cent of median monthly household income before tax and any benefits.

In real terms that sets the bar at a monthly income of HK$4,000 for a single person, HK$9,800 for two people, and HK$15,000 for a three-person household.

The child poverty rate stood at 23.1 per cent.

With thousands living in subdivided flats, Carrie Lam’s top priority is housing.
Photo: Felix Wong/SCMP