Recently the media has reported that a 5-year-old boy who was mentally disabled and had a history of having been physically abused was found dead in his home. The autopsy result indicated there was high level of methamphetamine, commonly known as “ice”, in his blood, which caused his premature death. His drug-addicted parents were later arrested for child neglect.
The Social Welfare Department summoned an inter-departmental task force to look at the case. It was found that the tragedy could have been avoided if there had been a vacancy in the government shelter homes for that boy so that he didn’t have to live in the same house with his junkie parents.
According to a report published by the Child Fatality Review Panel, among the 238 cases of child deaths that took place between 2010 and 2011, twelve of them were caused by fatal injuries inflicted by either their parents or guardians, and half of them died in their homes.
In fact many children in our city, mostly from underprivileged families, are facing different kinds of miseries and threats such as physical and mental abuse, drug abuse of their parents, as well as school and cyber bullying on a daily basis, not to mention that many underaged children or even toddlers are often left in their home alone for long hours.
Unfortunately, these children can only suffer silently because they can’t speak out for themselves and the child abuse cases that have been reported by the media so far were probably only the tip of the iceberg. Worse still, there is not a single government department that specializes in child welfare and protection in Hong Kong.
For years, there have been calls in society for the establishment of a children’s commission and the post of a children’s commissioner, but the government has continued to turn a deaf ear to such pleas.
A commission for children can not only provide a platform on which children’s rights issues can be discussed so that child experts can offer advice to the administration on how to improve the welfare of children, but also enhance public awareness about the importance of protecting children’s rights.
Sadly, it seems the government has not given enough attention to children’s welfare in Hong Kong and attach the same level of importance to it as other policy areas.
Children are the future of our society. Hence, there are high stakes are involved in the issue of protecting children’s rights.
I strongly urge the government to listen and allocate more resources to the protection of our children and their welfare, and, above all, set up a children’s commission immediately, because it is our responsibility as adults to ensure that every child in our society is entitled to a safe living environment and joyful upbringing.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 16.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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