For information on
24 January 1997
Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs
The Concluding Observations of the
United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the
Initial Report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
in respect of Hong Kong under
Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
This paper informs Members of the Administrations responses to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Childs suggestions and recommendations in respect of the Initial Report (the Report) on Hong Kong submitted by the United Kingdom Government under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) and the hearing held on 2 and 3 October 1996 in Geneva (the Hearing).
2. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) issued its Concluding Observations on the Report and the Hearing on 11 October 1996. We released them to LegCo and the press on the same day. A copy of the Concluding Observations is at Annex for ease of reference . Our responses to the Committees suggestions and recommendations stated in the Concluding Observations are outlined below.
THE COMMITTEES SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
A) Child Impact Assessment (Paragraph 20 of Annex)
3. We take all relevant factors into consideration in making decisions. An assessment of the impacts of policy options on children is therefore inherent in our policy formulation process. On matters directly concerned with children, e.g. the formulation of guidelines on how a new or revised curriculum should be implemented in schools, a child impact evaluation is conducted.
B) Holistic and Comprehensive Approach; Independent Monitoring Mechanism; Involvement of NGOs; Comprehensive Strategy (Paragraphs 20 and 21 of Annex)
4. The Convention covers many policy areas. We consider it appropriate for Policy Secretaries to be responsible for implementing the Convention as applied to their respective policy areas. Policy Secretaries are assisted in discharging their responsibilities by advisory boards and committees, which provide channels of communication with NGOs and other interested parties. For major issues that cut across several Policy Secretaries purview, besides direct communications between Branches and Departments, the Chief Secretarys Committee Policy Groups are the forums to provide the necessary co-ordination. Governments performance is closely monitored by LegCo, the Ombudsman and the press. Home Affairs Branch will continue to play the coordination role in, inter alia, informing the public and LegCo on the implementation of the Convention.
5. These administrative arrangements have served our needs. Our view, therefore, is that there are not any compelling reasons to justify a major review of the existing machinery.
C) Discussions with the Chinese side (Paragraph 20 of Annex)
6. It was agreed at the 23rd Plenary Session of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group (JLG) held in June 1992 that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should continue to apply in Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty. Matters relating to reservations and declarations to the Convention are being discussed in the JLG. Matters relating to the legislation and administrative measures to implement the Convention are, however, for the Hong Kong Government, and in future the Special Administrative Region Government to act upon; they therefore need not be discussed in the JLG.
D) Studies, Indicators, Statistics and Assessment of Effectiveness (Paragraphs 22, 24, 25, 30, 31 and 32 of Annex)
7. These recommendations amount to the adoption of a scientific approach in formulating policies, setting objectives and indicators for programmes, and conducting studies to evaluate the effectiveness of programmes. This is very much the approach we have been adopting.
8. As regards the suggestion that data collection should be guided by the provisions of Article 1 of the Convention, population data are currently collected for each year of age but, for simplicity, statistics are generally presented by quinquennial age groupings (i.e. 0-4, 5-9, 10-14, etc.). Statistics are therefore available for the age group 15-19 but not 15-18, though they could be specially compiled if necessary.
9. The Policy Secretaries concerned will examine the specific programmes mentioned by the Committee to see whether there is a need for more studies to be carried out on them - especially formalized studies using quantitative methods.
E) Human Rights Education (Paragraphs 23, 24, 25 and 32 of Annex)
10. The provision of human rights education, which covers topics on child rights, is undertaken mainly by two bodies. Education Department (ED) has included human rights topics in the curricula of individual school subjects and in the Guidelines on Civic Education. Human rights education outside schools is conducted mainly by the Committee on Promotion of Civic Education (CPCE) through publications, announcements of public interest on television, seminars, and recreational and cultural activities. The publications related to child rights include 30,000 copies of a pictorial rendition of the Convention, 80,000 copies of a storybook for children, 20,000 cassette tapes with stories on the principles of the rights of the child and teaching kits. We have distributed the Convention and the Report to the public through District Offices, civic education exhibitions and child youth conferences. CPCE and Government will continue with the efforts in promoting human rights. We shall consider further how to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing efforts in human rights education. One way to do so would be the civic awareness opinion survey which is conducted every two years.
11. The Committees proposal to include human rights education and the Convention as a core subject will have to be considered in the light of the competing demands for school time. Nevertheless, a syllabus for a specific subject of civic education is being developed and schools may offer it as an optional subject.
12. With reference to the Committees suggestion that a study should be conducted from the childrens perspective on their participation in the family, school and society and that children should be encouraged to participate in school life (e.g. disciplinary measures and curricula development), we believe school children have been given ample opportunities to voice their views through channels like student associations inside schools, Government consultation exercises and NGOs surveys outside school.
F) Additional One-way Permits for Family Reunification (Paragraph 26 of Annex)
13. The daily quota for one-way permits was increased from 105 to 150 in 1995 to cater for family reunification. Thirty places in the additional quota are allocated to children who will have the right of abode in Hong Kong after 30 June 1997. In determining the additional quota, we took into account the availability of educational and social services.
G) Child Abuse (Paragraphs 27 and 28 of Annex)
14. We share the Committees view on the need to change the communitys attitude towards the punishment of children. One new initiative is the setting up of a Student Discipline Section in ED, in September 1996, in order to promote a proper understanding of the role of punishment and to develop a policy on discipline in school.
15. The manning ratio of the Child Protective Services Unit, a unit specializing in handling child abuse cases in Social Welfare Department (SWD), has been provided with twenty additional social workers at senior practitioner level between 1994/95 and 1996/97. As a result, the caseload has been lowered from 40 cases per worker to 30 cases per worker in 1995. We shall keep under review the service demand and the manning ratio. The other efforts encouraged by the Committee (i.e. establishment of day care centre to help prevent children from being left unattended at home, and review of the Family Life Education programme), are similar to our ongoing measures to prevent child abuse and neglect.
H) Integration of Disabled Children into Regular Schools (Paragraph 29 of Annex)
16. Disabled students in ordinary schools are supported by services (such as special classes, visiting teachers, educational psychologists and audiologists) of ED and outreach services from special schools, etc. Schools are provided with access facilities as far as possible. Publicity activities aimed at attaining attitudinal changes especially in the school personnel, able-bodied students and parents towards disabled children are being conducted on an on-going basis.
I) Breast Feeding (Paragraph 30 of Annex)
17. With reference to the Committees comment on distribution of free powdered milk, the Hospital Authority and Department of Health do not distribute free powdered milk. Babies are only fed with powdered milk in hospitals when their mothers cannot or do not wish to breast feed. In fact, breast feeding has been actively promoted in recent years in Hong Kong. The rate of breast feeding has increased from 19% in 1992 to 46% in 1996.
18. With reference to the Committees concern about statutory provisions relating to the conditions of employment for nursing mothers, currently, maternity leave and benefits for female employees are provided for in the Employment Ordinance. The Administration has proposed to strengthen protection for pregnant employees. Legislative amendments have been introduced into LegCo in May 1996 which include, inter alia, removing the limitation on the number of surviving children (at present two) which qualifies for maternity leave pay. The legislative improvements also seek to improve the conditions of nursing mothers by allowing more flexibility for a pregnant employee to allocate up to 2 weeks of her 4-week ante-natal leave to be taken after her confinement, thus giving her more time to take care of her baby.
J) Adolescent Mental Health (Paragraph 31 of Annex)
19. With reference to the Committees suggestion that a review on possible causes of youth suicide and evaluation on the effectiveness of programmes pursued be undertaken, we are long aware of the problem. The latest development is that ED has commissioned the University of Hong Kong to conduct research on the usefulness of peer support programmes in dealing with student suicide and drug abuse in schools. The school social service for students in need is being reviewed having regard to other school-based and non-school-based supportive services for young people. The review is expected to be completed by the end of 1997.
20. SWD is conducting a study entitled understanding the adolescent project, the objective of which is to develop a screening tool for early identification of young people at risk so that intervention can be provided at an early stage. The screening tool is being developed and consideration will be given as to whether and how it could be used in schools.
K) Vietnamese Migrant Children (Paragraph 33 of Annex)
21. In accordance with the decision of the international community, all Vietnamese migrants (VMs) who have been determined to be non-refugees must return to Vietnam. There is no alternative. The UNHCR and the Hong Kong Government have been counseling the migrants to return home through the voluntary repatriation programme under which the migrants receive financial assistance to reintegrate into the community in Vietnam. While the migrants are still in Hong Kong, we have no option but to detain them under the Immigration Ordinance. We have been trying our best to provide decent and humane living conditions for the detained VMs as far as possible. They are provided with daily necessities and services, including medical services, education for children, recreation, family services, etc. VM children are provided with community-type schooling from pre-school up to secondary education. Government has provided funding and enlisted an NGO (International Social Service) to coordinate the programme.
22. As regards Vietnamese refugees (VRs), they can either live in the Pillar Point Vietnamese Refugees Centre or in their own accommodation outside the Centre. The Pillar Point Centre is managed by the UNHCR and NGOs which provide various services to the VRs, including medical services, family services and education for the children. The UNHCR, which has responsibility for the centre, can approach the Government for assistance on individual cases if a specific need cannot be met by the UNHCR or its service agencies there.
L) Revising the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (Paragraph 34 of Annex)
23. The minimum age of criminal responsibility is now set at seven. We plan to undertake a review as soon as possible.
M) Dissemination of the Report, The Committees Records of Discussion and Concluding Observations (Paragraph 35 of Annex)
24. We have distributed the Convention and the Report to LegCo, NGOs and members of the public. We agree with the Committee and will give the Concluding Observations the same wide circulation as the Convention and the Report. This will be done when the Committees official Chinese version is available. As regards the records of the Committees discussions, they will be made available upon request.
25. The Policy Branches concerned will further consider the Concluding Observations and take appropriate action.
26. The Committee recommended the preparation of a progress report on the implementation of its suggestions up to the end of May 1997. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has indicated that it is willing to submit the requested report, which shall be prepared and submitted to the UN before the transfer of sovereignty.
Home Affairs Branch
Last Updated on 19 August 1998