【有關五歲女童被嚴重虐待致死案的聲明｜Statement on the tragedy of the five-year-old girl who was abused to death】
(Please scroll down for English Version)
The Hong Kong community roars. We are not only heartbroken by the tragic death of the five-year-old girl who suffered from the torturous, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted by her parents and finally led to her death, we also raise a big question why our system had failed her.
The little girl had been telling us with her wounds and scars (over 130 old and new wounds found on her body as the autopsy revealed) that she had been continuously abused. She relied on us, adults to speak up for her. The community is also concerned about the surviving 8-year-old brother and 7-year-old stepsister, their well-being and rehabilitation must be carefully ensured.
This was not a single case. The community was also shocked by the alleged murder and dismemberment of a 12-year-old girl committed by her own mother with mental illness and drug behaviours in December 2017. The community should never forget Yeung Chi-wai, a boy with mental disabilities died at the age of five from “ice” poisoning. His parents were found to have substance abuse behaviours at home. Chi-wai was found with multiple injuries and suspected child abuse, and was known to multi-disciplinary professionals in a case conference one month before his death. His case had already been confirmed as an abuse but continued to stay home when there was no alternative care placement available.
All these tragedies could not be prevented if we start a blaming exercise. Instead, it needs the joint efforts of the community and the commitment of the government in strengthening laws and systems to protect our 1.1 million children population in Hong Kong. And such cases must be thoroughly reviewed to trace needs and loop holes to ensure responsible practices being the norm.
We need our government to:
1. Put a Child Fatality Inquiry System in place to thoroughly investigate each individual case of a child’s unnatural death, if not also the serious cases, to understand the root causes, actions taken or not taken, and whether there existed opportunity/ies for the child to be early identified and the death and suffering could have been prevented.
2. Ban corporal punishment totally in Hong Kong by law and ensured with an effective and adequately monitored system. Positive parenting programs must be made universal especially to families with newborns.
3. Conduct a comprehensive child law reform to better protect children. There is a clear need to incorporate the stipulations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into our domestic laws. We encourage the government to begin with public consultations on the Child Protection Bill.
4. Immediately study the feasibility of setting up a Mandatory Reporting System of Suspected Child Abuse like many countries do to ensure no suspected child abuse will go unreported. Government should also give priority and allocate sufficient resources to ensure this system is reliable and accountable.
5. Ensure each school has a clear Policy on Whistle Blowing when a child’s health, safety and well-being might be at risk; and teachers must be well trained and well supported to handle such cases as a team instead of all by himself/herself.
6. Create a Registry for Pre-school Children Withdrawing from School under the Education Bureau so these kids would not be lost from the radar.
7. Make sure the guidelines of handling suspected child abuse cases issued by Social Welfare Department and Education Bureau are well integrated into the curriculum of pre-service and in-service teachers and social workers in their training.
8. Narrow down the ratio between school social workers/ teachers and students so they can better support those children in need.
9. Review child care support and services in view of the vulnerability of infant and preschool children.
10. Conduct public education to engage children and adults about children’s rights and the concept of Collective Responsibility in Children Protection. General public such as neighbours need to be sensitized and understand their role to play in protecting children from harm, risks including the hidden ones.
11. Set up a statutory Children’s Commission with a Child Commissioner mandated to champion and uphold the rights and the best interests of children in Hong Kong.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has come into effect since 1994 in Hong Kong. We need to honor our commitment to the Convention with all our might including our collective responsibility in child protection.
Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights
13 April 2021