The Director of the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC) Susan Choy and the superintendent of one of its children’s homes have resigned after 20 staff members were arrested for allegedly abusing more than 35 toddlers.

A report conducted by an independent review committee led by barrister Lester Garson Huang suggested that the management of Children’s Residential Home in Mong Kok should resign, and all staff members in charge of taking care of young children should be replaced.

Merchant logo Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children’s headquarters in Mong Kok. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

During a press conference to present the report’s findings on Wednesday, Huang said that the committee had identified three main issues at the children’s home: it had a poor management culture, management staff had failed to monitor overall operations, and a high turnover rate had led to a heavy workload.

Huang also said that “there was no way” that the management of Children’s Residential Home did not know that its staff members were “rough” with the children. None of those interviewed by the committee said they were aware of any incidents of child abuse.

According to the Children’s Residential Home website, the centre provided “round-the-clock care” for children up to three years old who “have been referred to us by court order, abandoned by their parents, orphaned, or belong to families suffering acute social problems.”

Barrister Lester Garson Huang, chairperson of an independent review committee into alleged child abuse in Children’s Residential Home. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

“Through the investigation, the independent review committee found problems with the professional conduct of the staff members, [they] treated children roughly in order to regain control as quickly as possible, but they rarely or did not at all consider their [the children’s] feelings, emotions, and dignity,” said Huang.

The barrister also said that “using inappropriate means to regulate [children’s behaviour] has become an accepted part of the culture,” and that it was “unacceptable” for the management team to not realise the severity of the issue.

‘Confidence may have been shaken’

It took the six-member committee three weeks to complete the first stage of its investigation. The committee reviewed CCTV footage and interviewed 21 people. The next stage of the probe will include looking into other aspects of the HKSPC, Huang said.

Robin Hammond, chairperson of the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children apologising on January 26, 2022, following reports of alleged child abuse in the Children’s Residential Home. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Robin Hammond, chairperson of HKSPC, apologised at the beginning of the press conference on Wednesday and said he was as “shocked as everybody is” over the alleged malpractice.

“I am particularly sorry for the children in our care, and for our service users, and for the supporters of the society, whose confidence in us may have been shaken,” said Hammond. “We will do everything we can to regain your trust.”

Out of the 20 people arrested, 18 were facing prosecution for alleged “ill-treatment by those in charge of child or young person.” They will next appear in court on February 21.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.