Social workers are pushing back against claims they missed signs a seven-year-old girl in a vegetative state in a Hong Kong hospital was a victim of child abuse.
The girl was emaciated and her body was pocked with gangrene when she was brought to Yan Chai Hospital in Tsuen Wan in July, according to staff cited by Ming Pao Daily.
She has been moved to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung where she is in a vegetative state, able only to move her eyes.
Social workers who have been visiting her home said the family had no record of domestic violence or abuse.
In April, they were told by the girl’s parents they had put her in the care of relatives in the mainland and canceled their application for financial support.
The 50-year-old husband, surnamed Ling, and his mainland-born wife live with the girl and three other children in Tsuen Wan.
They were arrested on Monday and released on bail. They must report back to the police in mid-September.
Since July 2013, the couple have been receiving assistance from a non-government organization which sent social workers to help them deal with problems relating to money, housing and marriage, according to the Social Welfare Department.
The social workers said they had not visited the family since June and had not seen the girl ever since they started the home visits.
The girl’s condition suggests she could have endured long-term abuse, according to reports.
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung, who represents the social welfare sector, said it is not fair to blame the social workers for neglect since they were told the girl did not live in Hong Kong.
Also, the kindergarten the girl was attending might not have known her family was receiving counseling from social workers on privacy grounds.
Cheung said the government should centralize information collected by different service units to enhance communication.
Meanwhile, the girl’s three siblings — a pair of 15-year-old twins and a six-year-old brother born to different fathers — have been taken to a juvenile home under a government protection order.
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said the girl is expected to survive and will continue to receive proper hospital care and treatment.
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