Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has said it is looking into cases of suspected child abuse at a special needs school in Tai Po following reports of children being physically mistreated by staff.

Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School
Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School in Tai Po. Photo: Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School.

The bureau said on Sunday that it had received “a number” of complaints about maladministration and inappropriate acts towards students at the Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School, local media reported.

It is following up on the complaints and has also instructed the school to submit an investigative report to authorities.

Allegations of child abuse at the school, which date back to 2014, were first reported by Oriental Daily on Sunday. In the most recent case of alleged abuse, the newspaper reported that staff were said to have tied a student’s wrists for as long as two hours in May, causing redness and bruising.

The earliest allegation involved a child whose head was covered with a jacket for at least 10 minutes by a senior teacher and a teaching assistant. The child had been throwing a tantrum. Separately, in 2018, two teachers pressed a bib into a student’s face after they tried to leave their seat, Oriental Daily reported.

Education Bureau
Photo: NowTV screenshot.

Oriental Daily also reported that there had been a Covid-19 outbreak at the school recently and around 10 students had caught the virus. Some were sent to the hospital for isolation, but the school, which also has boarding facilities, did not inform parents of their children’s whereabouts, the paper said.

In an article on Monday, the paper said it had received short video clips from readers showing the apparent physical abuse. The clips appeared to show a child being pressed onto a table by two staff members, as well as a staff member covering a child’s head with a jacket and pulling their hands. Students can be heard crying and wailing in the footage, Oriental Daily reported.

The school is operated by Hong Chi Association, an NGO supporting people with intellectual disabilities.

In response to HKFP, police said it had received a report in August from a 44-year-old woman about suspected abuse at the Tai Po school. The report involved the inappropriate treatment of her son and three other students aged 15 to 22.

Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School
Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School in Tai Po. Photo: Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School.

No arrests have been made so far. The police’s North District regional crime unit is investigating the case.

According to Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School’s website, the school strives to offer high-quality education and training opportunities for intellectually disabled people and their families. Founded in 1979, the school caters to primary and secondary students, and counts nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists among its staff.

HKFP has reached out to the Education Bureau and Hong Chi Association for comment.

‘Not isolated incidents’

News reports of suspected abuse at the Tai Po school come days after a fourth member of staff at the Children’s Residential Home in Mong Kok was sentenced to prison.

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

Fu Yuet-long, 25, was handed a jail term of almost eight and a half months. She earlier pleaded guilty to assaulting and abusing eight toddlers and kids.

To date, 34 staffers at the home – run by the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children – have been arrested and charged with child abuse.

Separately, two staff members who worked at a childcare home run by charity organisation Po Leung Kuk were arrested last week.

The suspected abuse at the Causeway Bay residential home came to light during an inspection by the Social Welfare Department in September, when officials found that a two-year-old in the “babies section” was repeatedly pushed onto a play mat by an employee. The department then reviewed security camera footage, which showed five more children aged one to three being mistreated.

The two women, aged 28 and 33, who were arrested have been released on bail.

Tik Chi-yuen
Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen, who represents the social welfare sector, said the suspected abuse cases were “not isolated incidents.”

“They cannot be blamed on specific workers’ inappropriate behaviour,” he told reporters on Thursday. “We believe there could be some deep-rooted problems to do with the management culture at children’s homes, manpower, resources, training opportunities, promotion opportunities and more.”

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.