Child abuse in Hong Kong: officials must reach out to ethnic minority families to prepare for new mandatory reporting policy, educators say

Hong Kong educators have appealed to authorities to reach out to ethnic minority households to raise awareness of a proposed reporting system to tackle child abuse, with a charity saying many families are unaware of the policy change.

The Federation of Education Workers issued the appeal on Monday in response to a government plan to enact the Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Bill by the end of next year.

The legislation will require 23 types of professionals who work with children, such as doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers, to flag any suspected cases of abuse. Failure to report an incident will be punishable by up to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,400).

(From left) Amy Lam of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, Legco member Chu Kwok-keung and Nancy Lam, also of the federation. Photo: Dickson Lee

Federation vice-chairwoman Nancy Lam Chui-ling called on authorities to organise seminars and workshops tailored to ethnic minority families and their specific needs.

“In the long run, the government should think about how to gradually instil the concept of child abuse prevention [among families in the city],” she said.

Government statistics from 2021 showed that 8 per cent of Hong Kong’s population, or 619,568 people, came from ethnic minority backgrounds. A further breakdown of the figures found 60,095 were under the age of 15 that year.

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Shalini Mahtani, the founder and CEO of the Zubin Foundation, a charity set up to support ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong and which helps more than 16,000 people, said information on the bill was largely inaccessible to many non-Chinese households.

“There needs to be training for the community in native languages to educate them about this new law,” she said. “We [also] need to make the law digestible to them in their language.”

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She also suggested using simplified diagrams to share information on the bill and help accommodate some parents who struggled with literacy.

The foundation CEO also voiced her support for the proposed mechanism and said she hoped teachers and social workers who underwent the proper training would not hesitate to flag potential abuse cases or broach the topic of cultural issues.

The bill, at present under discussion by lawmakers and stakeholders, will also come with guidelines to help professionals assess potential child abuse cases and procedures that should be followed.


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