Last week, a video of a young girl kowtowing repeatedly whilst being yelled at by her mother went viral. While many responded to the video in shock at the way the mother emotionally abused her child, I was more surprised by the fact that Hongkongers seemed quite concerned about parental mistreatment.
The video, filmed outside Tai Hing Sports Hall in Tuen Mun, shows a girl no older than six years-old apologising profusely, while her mother scolds at her for not paying attention during badminton practice.
But parental ‘mistreatment’ of children (I use the term loosely) is neither new nor rare in Hong Kong. If we were discuss a mother angry at her child for ‘underperforming’, many of us would roll our eyes in the ‘I know what you mean’ kind of way. Indeed, many Hong Kong parents do see striking, yelling and strict parenting as normal in disciplining their children.
So I was a little taken back when Hongkongers reacted to the video by condemning the mother. My surprise came with a question: are Hong Kong people actually concerned about “destructive parenting”?
Heck, no one even batted an eyelid when a younger girl I knew was hit and slapped by her father to an audience of mothers, children and security guards near a playground. The girl was 16 and suffered a red, swollen face when she returned home.
Most of the time, when we see extreme parenting in public, we tend to walk away. Perhaps we feel it would be inappropriate to intrude upon someone else’s private life and way of ‘parenting’. But to the young girl I knew, the lack outside interference was one that made her feel vulnerable to domestic abuse.
“There were mothers with their children at the playground, and security guards, who just stood and watched,” she told in a trembling voice a while after the incident.
But the condemning responses to the kowtowing video renews my hope that perhaps Hong Kong people do have a humane heart, it’s just that maybe they act in private most of the time. According to a witness, before the video recording began, a man with a blue umbrella had tried to reason with the mother and to ask her to stop, but she ignores him. So the video only sees him walking away.
So, my question is: are we satisfied with privately condemnation of abuse or violence on social media without acting upon it in real life? Are you?