Probe in Hong Kong over child abuse in special school

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

October 5, 2022

By UCA News reporter

Some 940 and 1,367 child abuse cases were recorded in 2020 and 2021 respectively in HK, according to official data

The authorities in Hong Kong have launched an investigation into a school for intellectually disabled children after media reports claimed several parents complained of child abuse by its staff members.

The school under fire is the Hong Chi Pinehill No. 2 School in Tai Po operated by the Hong Chi Association. Founded in 1979, it provides care and education to disabled children.

Hong Kong Education Bureau has instructed relevant regulatory bodies to probe and follow up on the incident, the Standard reported on Oct. 3.  The school has been asked to submit an investigation report on the child abuse complaints.

An unnamed spokesperson from the Education Bureau said that they have received “several complaints” about the mistreatment of students and mismanagement in the institution.

The official stated the need to maintain the dignity of students while only using isolation and restrictions at shorter periods and appropriate levels.

“Students’ personal feelings, dignity, and privacy must also be taken care of to ensure no physical or mental harm is done,” the official said.

The official also added that “according to restraining or isolation guidelines, the period of restraining or isolation must be short – the shorter the better – and at an appropriate level.”

The official also added that the school should discuss with staff the use of restraining belts, isolation chairs, and rooms and communicate with parents on the matter.

The school has around 60 students in eight grades from classes one to six, and some students live in a dormitory adjacent to the campus.

An official of the Hong Chi Association said that they would “fully cooperate with the police” and necessary action will be taken against those found guilty of abusing children.

The unnamed official said that the Hong Chi Association “cannot accept mistreatment of people with intellectual disabilities. If anyone is found to have mistreated students, the cases will be handled strictly.”

The school management has constituted an investigation committee and has informed local news media that the progress of the investigations will be shared with the police, parents, and teachers.

The allegations date back to 2014 with the most recent one in May when the staff reportedly tied up the student’s wrist for about two hours causing redness and bruising.

The allegations also involve an incident in 2018 when two teachers forcefully pressed a bib into a student’s face after they tried to leave their seat.

The officials at the school also did not disclose to the parents the details of the recent Covid-19 outbreak incident wherein 10 students were isolated at the hospital.

A Hong Kong lawmaker termed the incident at the school as not being an isolated one stating that improvements could be made through staff training and improving the overall management, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Oct.3.

“They cannot be blamed on specific workers’ inappropriate behavior,” said Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen, who represents the social welfare sector to reporters last Thursday stating that the recent incident was “not an isolated one.”

The lawmaker also added that he believed “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.”

The child abuse allegations of Hong Kong Chi school emerged days after a fourth-grade staff member at the Children’s Residential Home in Mong Kok, run by the charity Po Leung Kuk was handed jail terms, the HKFP reported.

Fu Yuet-long was found guilty of assaulting and abusing eight toddlers and kids and was handed a jail term of eight and a half months.

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

The Po Leung Kuk scandal came to the light last week, less than a year after a mass child abuse case was reported in which 34 carers had been arrested for abusing some 40 children.

Citing government data, media reports suggested that Hong Kong has seen an increase in the number of child abuse cases in recent years.

The reports say 940 and 1,367 child abuse cases were recorded in 2020 and 2021 respectively, an increase of around 31 percent in a year.

Among girls, a major share of abuse is reported to be sexual abuse followed by physical abuse and neglect.

Physical abuse is at a higher scale followed by neglect and sexual abuse among boys.

Hong Kong’s Child Protection Registry estimates that for every case, 99 are unreported. In 65 percent of cases, the parent is the abuser.