In response to the recent wave of child abuse incidents in our city, the Legislative Council has held two special meetings — one held by the Subcommittee on Children’s Rights, and the other by the Panel on Welfare Services — this month to address the pressing and distressing issue.
According to figures provided by the Social Welfare Department, there are about 900 child abuse cases taking place in Hong Kong every year. And even though deaths caused by child abuse have remained relatively rare over the years, everybody knows that the official figures only represent the tip of the iceberg.
The harsh reality is, hundreds of thousands more children out there are being victimized every day and, sadly, the vast majority of the cases have gone under the public radar.
Worse still, while members of the Hong Kong public often feel strongly and emotionally about individual victims of child abuse, they have remained largely indifferent to another form of “collective abuse” which is also devastating to children, i.e. child poverty and child deprivation.
According to the “Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report 2016″ published by the government, there were close to 230,000 children in our city living in poverty in that year. Even after relevant policies were taken into consideration, there were still more than 170,000 children living in poverty.
Meanwhile, another recently published report — “2016 Population By-census Thematic Report: Persons Living in Subdivided Units” — indicates that there are currently about 210,000 people living in sub-divided flats across Hong Kong. Among them, 37,487 are aged under 15.
Undoubtedly, it’s fair enough for our fellow citizens to focus their attention on cases of physical abuse against children, since after all, it’s about protecting the lives of the vulnerable in society.
Nevertheless, it appears members of Hong Kong’s society are only concerned about guaranteeing the right to life of children, while neglecting the importance of promoting social equality on the personal development and well-being of children.
Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that signatories must guarantee “the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.”
And it has already been proven in numerous studies that “child deprivation” has “severe negative impact” on the overall satisfaction of life among children.
Unfortunately, all our administration does is pay lip service to its treaty commitment and continue to pull the same set of cliches on the child issue.
Even more outrageous is that our officials are blatantly allowing child poverty in Hong Kong to continually worsen when our government is so flush with surplus and our city so rich in vacant land.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 24
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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