HONG KONG, 26 September 2015 – Today, 58 Child Councilors debated on three motions, including: i) ‘The government should enhance the participatory rights of children in the residential child care service process’; ii) ‘The government should implement LGBTQ education in primary and secondary schools to eliminate discrimination by children against sexual minorities’; and iii) ‘The government should collaborate with transport operators to offer child concession fares for specific transportation means’. Legislative Councilors Mr Chan Chi-chuen, Ms Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Ms Emily Lau Wai-hing, Mr Alan Leong Kah-kit, Dr Leung Ka-lau, Mr Charles Peter Mok, Ms Helena Wong Pik-wan, Dr Cheng Lee-ming, District Councilor of Kowloon City District Council, and the representatives from Social Welfare Department, The Society for Truth and Light, The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong, Alliance for Children Development Rights, BigLove Alliance and other guests were present to exchange views with Child Councilors.
The meeting was held in the Legislative Council Complex, with reference to the rules and procedures of the Legislative Council. 58 Child Councilors, aged 12 to 17, were divided into three groups. Representatives from each group first moved the motions on the child-related issues, followed by an intense debate with other Child Councilors, and a Q & A session with Legislative Councilors and other panel guests. The Child Councilors then voted to determine the passage on a motion.
Regarding the first motion, ‘The government should enhance the participatory rights of children in the residential child care service process’, Child Councilors indicated that residential child care service has a profound impact on children. To formulate the most suitable policy, the Government, as the policymaker, should consider the opinions and feelings of children.
Child Councilors conducted a survey to 159 children aged under 18 to find out their opinions on the current child care service policies. Over 90 per cent of the respondents expressed knowing little about residential care service and 60% worried that they might not adapt to the new environment. Some children had to switch between different foster care homes, small group homes and social workers for more than three times and failed to establish long-term relationship with social workers. They felt their opinions are not accepted and respected by the “adults”. The Child Councilors thus suggested the Government and organizations to provide detailed child care service plan to children. The plan should include accommodation, learning environment and important information. When the child receives the child care services for the first time, the Government should appoint volunteers to follow up with them to offer suitable help and emotional support and more importantly ensure that children’s views are heard and accepted.
LGBTQ education remains a taboo in Hong Kong society. It is necessary for children to acquire comprehensive knowledge and understanding, in order to understand and respect people with different sexual orientation or gender identity. Therefore, for the second motion, ‘The government should implement LGBTQ education in primary and secondary schools to eliminate discrimination by children against sexual minorities’, Child Councilors suggested the Government to facilitate the existing Advisory Group on Eliminating Discrimination against Sexual Minorities to provide professional guidance towards the issue of LGBTQ to children. Meanwhile, LGBTQ child rights concern group can be established to promote the mental health and wellbeing for the group of children. A survey conducted by the Child Councilors also found out over 70% of secondary school students urged the Government to strengthen LGBTQ education, introduce learning and discussions in different learning stages so that children can understand and respect sexual minorities.
The child concession fare scheme is yet to be widely launched in Hong Kong. Currently, the scheme only applies to children of age 3-11, but not to children aged 12-17. Some families may find high expenditure on transportation a financial burden and may decide not to let their children joining extra-curricular activities, thus hinder their all-round development. The third motion, ‘The government should collaborate with transport operators to offer child concession fares for specific transportation means’ suggests that the Government should take overseas child concession fare schemes as references. Sweden, London, South Korea, Japan and different countries have provided comprehensive concession fare to children and put children and their development into consideration. Child Councilors also suggest the Government to make good use of the Octopus Card system, to formulate and introduce the new comprehensive child concession fare scheme efficiently.
After the meeting, Child Councilors and honourable guests joined the Closing Ceremony, which marked the successful completion of the Children’s Council in its eleventh year. In the past four months, Child Councilors had 39 group meetings; they also conducted 22 interviews with government officials, legislators and people from various sectors; collected views from 1,186 children by questionnaires; along with desk top researches to prepare the three motions that will be compiled into a publication. The publications will be sent to the authorities concerned, and child-related organizations for government and society’s consideration and reference.
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