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HKSAR Government welcomes constructive dialogue with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

     A spokesperson for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said today (October 9) that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) had issued its concluding observations on China's combined third and fourth reports under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

     "We are pleased that the Committee appreciates the constructive dialogue it has with the delegation which allowed for a better understanding of the situation of children's rights in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)," the spokesperson said.

     The concluding observations were published on October 9 (Geneva time), after the Committee's hearing of the report on September 26 and 27. A ten-member delegation led by the Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, attended the hearing in Geneva.

     "In the concluding observations, the Committee commented Hong Kong in a number of areas, such as the mechanism in formulating and coordinating policies in relation to children, support services to ethnic minority children and children with disabilities, as well as housing conditions and development opportunities of disadvantaged children, measures tackling corporal punishment, policy in relation to family reunification, treatment to unaccompanied minors seeking non-refoulement, etc." the spokesperson said.

     The concluding observations also included the Committee's concerns and recommendations in certain areas, which the spokesperson said should be viewed in the proper context.

     "We appreciate the Committee's goodwill in making those recommendations. The HKSAR Government respects the Committee's views. We will make suitable judgements according to the prevailing circumstances and implement the Committee's feasible and practicable recommendations in the light of Hong Kong's unique circumstances,” the spokesperson added.

     The Committee has repeated its recommendation on the policy formulation and co-ordination mechanism in Hong Kong. The spokesperson said, "the importance of the family as the fundamental group unit of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members including children is firmly recognised by our society. It is therefore our policy to use a family-based approach to provide appropriate services to our children and families in need. In 2007, we have established the Family Council to examine, from the family perspective, the Government's policies and programmes designed for different age and gender sectors (including children). Since April this year, it became a mandatory requirement for Government agencies to include family perspectives when formulating policies. We have also strengthened collaboration between the Family Council and the Children's Rights Forum to listen to children's views in the process of assessing family implications of different policy initiatives. We consider that the current arrangements have been working well to ensure that relevant government agencies would give due consideration of the 'best interests of the child' while they formulate policies that may have implications on children."

     Regarding the Committee's concerns in relation to the education in Hong Kong, the spokesperson said, "the Government always pays special attention to children's whole person development. Apart from human rights education, our broad and balanced curriculum provides all students with essential life-long learning experiences so that they can become active, responsible and contributing members of society, the nation and the world. From 2009, all students are entitled to have the opportunity of 12 years of free education. Furthermore, in the light of catering learners' diversity, additional resources have been allocated to support children with special educational needs and to explore stepping up the support for the non-Chinese speaking students to enhance their learning of the Chinese language with a view to increasing their opportunity for further study and career pursuits."

     The Committee is also concerned about the banning of corporal punishment at home and the child care services available in Hong Kong. "The Social Welfare Department (SWD) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provides a range of supportive, preventive and remedial services to families which experienced domestic violence and abuse. Legislation is also put in place to protect children from violence and abuses. As regards child care services to support parents with long working hours, the SWD provides subventions to NGOs to run various day child care services and assist low-income families to obtain the needed services. To support children who cannot be adequately cared for by their families because of various reasons, institutional and non-institutional residential care services including foster care and small group homes in family-like environment are provided. Majority of the children are united with their family upon discharge," the spokesman said.

     As regards questions concerning family reunification, and treatment to unaccompanied minors seeking non-refoulement in Hong Kong, the spokesperson said, "the Government attaches great importance to the wishes for family reunion. Our existing dependant policy allows mothers of foreign nationality to apply to join their resident spouses in Hong Kong and take care of their children who are Hong Kong residents. Concerning unaccompanied minors seeking non-refoulement in Hong Kong, they will not be detained under the existing policy unless with strong reasons. Each case will be assessed on individual merits and they will normally be released on recognisance as soon as supervised care home facility is available."

     The HKSAR's next report under the UNCRC is due in 2019. It will contain the Government's detailed response to the Committee's recommendations.

     The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau will upload the Committee's concluding observations onto its website and distribute copies to the judicial, legislative and administrative authorities.

Ends/Wednesday, October 9, 2013