A children’s rights group has urged the government to implement a mandatory reporting mechanism within schools and other child services to prevent child abuse.
The renewed call for stronger child protection measures came after the High Court sentenced a couple to life imprisonment for murdering their five-year-old daughter on Tuesday.
“For schools and community organisations that work with children, we need to establish a mandatory reporting system so that all professionals and individuals who regularly interact with children can report any level of suspected child abuse cases and for them to get immediate intervention,” Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Hong Kong Carol Szeto told an RTHK programme.
She also called on the government to criminalise corporal punishment of children.
Szeto urged Hongkongers to be more aware of potential cases of child abuse around them: “As a community, when we see something, we need to say something. We need to report these cases to the authorities.”
Earlier on Tuesday, a 29-year-old father and a 30-year-old stepmother were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of their five-year-old daughter in 2018. The judge said the case was one of “extreme cruelty.” The girl had died of blood poisoning, with over 100 wounds found on her body.
Her 56-year-old step-grandmother was sentence to five years for two counts of child neglect.
‘Duty to protect’
The city’s Law Reform Commission is studying whether to enforce a mandatory reporting system under local laws, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong told reporters on Tuesday. The commission’s study of recent cases of severe child abuse and neglect will conclude in mid-2021.
“The major consideration of the Law Reform Commission… is the idea of the duty to protect, which basically means for those who are having the responsibility in looking after the welfare of the vulnerable, and whether the mechanism of the duty to protect should be written in law,” the secretary said, adding that the measures considered include mandatory reporting.
Last Friday, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung dismissed calls from lawmakers to enforce mandatory reporting of suspected cases of child abuse in schools, saying it was unfair to place the “sole responsibility” on teachers.
Last year 940 cases of child abuse were reported in Hong Kong, according to the Social Welfare Department.