The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights (HKCCR) launched its Child Safeguarding Charter yesterday, calling on all groups to respect the rights, integrity or honour, and dignity of children under 18. A charter is a formal statement of someone’s rights.
The NGO also asked child-focused organisations to set up Child Safeguarding Policies and Codes of Conduct for those working with children. The charter aims to stop children from facing neglect and physical, psychological or sexual abuse, and to help children learn about their rights and what is or is not acceptable.
Speaking at the launch on World Children’s Day, chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming talked about the importance of empowerment and speaking openly.
“Chinese cultural attitudes place parents [as] gods and children might think everything they do is right. But that is wrong,” he said.
Dr Fung Wai-wah, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said the government should give more resources to education, and hire a social worker and guidance teacher for all schools. He pointed out that children need education, protection, and people to fight for their rights. In particular, he said that young people need to be taught the ways in which they can seek help.
“They lack the power to protect themselves. Children need to be educated on sexual education, what is inappropriate contact, how to say no, and how to speak to trusted people.”
Dr Patrick Chaung Chi-hung, chairperson of Hong Kong-based NGO Against Child Abuse, supported the drafting of a children’s law. “The current laws are scattered and not child-friendly. There is child protection legislation, but they fall under different crimes like assault or sexual offences,” he said.
Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, chairperson of the HKCCR and a member of the Commission on Children, noted that the state of child poverty in the city is “shocking”. “People going hungry regularly is something you assume would never happen in Hong Kong. We must speed up our work and reduce the pain and suffering of children,” she said.