Why does not the mass child maltreatment incident in Hong Kong transform the policy into legislation to practice?

Research output: Other contributionOther contributions


Background: A five-year-old kindergarten girl who died of maltreatment in 2018 shocked Hong Kong, bringing up the recommendation on the steady legislation process of “Failure to Protect” offence. The unprecedented increase in domestic violence globally since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made the United Nations Women describe it “shadow pandemic”. Another shocking incident hit Hong Kong again in 2021-2022. Including early childhood education professionals, 32 staff of Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children were arrested concerning 40 cases of child maltreatment. The victims, aged 1 to 3, resided in a children’s residential home under the organisation.

Purpose: The paper explores how can policymakers and practitioners transform the policy into the legislation of “Failure to protect” offence to practice. The research questions are: 1) What obstacles make the legislation process of “Failure to Protect” offence stead, even though the mass child maltreatment incident happened? 2) What impeding factors and difficulties put the policy into practice? 3) How do we overcome the gaps between policy, legislation, and practice?

Design/methodology/approach: The study is conducted through in-depth interviews with eight professional stakeholders, including two legislators in the Legislative Council, two kindergarten principals, two heads of creches or nurseries, and two social work leaders of child protection work.

Findings: Social Welfare Department issued the policy in 2020 with “Protecting Children from Maltreatment – Procedural Guide for Multi-disciplinary Co-operation”, which indicates the principles of child-focused, safety first, family participation and multi-disciplinary co-operation. It also provides practice strategies to prevent the problem by taking appropriate measures, supporting the family with early identification, and protecting the child through managing the crisis. Education Bureau required all schools to follow in 2020. However, there is no consequence if professionals do not compulsorily report. The legislation process is steady, attributed to the caregivers’ insufficient knowledge and capacity to recognise the signs of abuse and the fear of the ambiguous line. It is more likely that the interviewees’ voices recommend that the legislation of the “Failure to Protect” offence could be applied to the professionals, given that appropriate training is offered, and non-professional caregivers should be exempted.

Originality/value: This paper contributes cutting-edge and timely views on the series of unprecedentedly shocking incidents related to infants and the implications for policy, legislation, and practice. Copyright © 2022 PECERA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


Chan, C. K. (2022, July). Why does not the mass child maltreatment incident in Hong Kong transform the policy into legislation to practice? Poster presented at the PECERA-HK Celebration of 25th Anniversary of HKSAR Establishment cum 22nd PECERA Annual Conference, Hong Kong, China.


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