Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has vowed to follow on a suspected case of child abuse at a Po Leung Kuk childcare home, where a member of staff allegedly pushed at least six young children aged one to three years old onto a play mat earlier this month.

“We take this matter seriously and we will absolutely hold [the perpetrators] accountable,” Lee said when he met the press ahead of his weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

john lee
Chief Executive John Lee met the press on September 27, 2022. Photo: Screenshot, via RTHK.

He said the government had initiated amendments to Hong Kong laws to better protect children from possible abuse but that it was also important to step up inspections with the “utmost urgency.” Authorities may consider engaging trustworthy, independent bodies to conduct such inspections, Lee said, adding that the Labour and Welfare Bureau would follow up.

Suspected child abuse

The suspected child abuse case came to light when officials from the Social Welfare Department inspected a residential child care centre run by charitable organisation Po Leung Kuk in Causeway Bay on September 16, local media reported. Officials found that a two-year-old in the “babies section” was repeatedly pushed onto a play mat by an employee.

po leung kuk child care centre
Po Leung Kuk’s residential childcare centre. Photo: Screenshot, via Google Map.

The department then reviewed security camera footage and discovered the same staff member had allegedly mistreated five other children aged one to three. Po Leung Kuk said the employee, who was still on probation, was immediately suspended and the case was handed over to the police.

Police confirmed with HKFP that a 33-year-old woman had been arrested and released on bail.

po leung kuk child care centre
Po Leung Kuk. Photo: Screenshot, via Google Map.

Po Leung Kuk told local media that the children appeared to be fine and it was communicating with their families. The NGO stressed it did not tolerate inappropriate behaviour against children and would take the matter seriously.

Children’s Residential Home case

The incident follows a high-profile abuse scandal involving a major children’s care facility, in which three former employees of the Children’s Residential Home have been jailed for abusing children last year. The case is still ongoing and more than 30 people have been charged.

Children's Residential Home
The Children’s Residential Home of Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The Children’s Residential Home case and other recent child abuse cases have sparked debate over how to better protect children. The government has proposed introducing a mandatory child abuse reporting mechanism, which would require people such as teachers, social workers and doctors to make a report if they came across a suspected case of abuse.

According to statistics released by the Social Welfare Department, there were 1,367 newly registered cases of child abuse in 2021, up from 940 the year before.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.