A child welfare organisation on Thursday called on the government to beef up measures to tackle child abuse, such as reviewing penalties for abusers and speeding up legislation work to make reporting child abuse mandatory.
Against Child Abuse said it received 1,136 calls via its hotline between April 2021 and March this year, including 168 reports of suspected child abuse – down from 200 last year.
The group’s director, Donna Wong, said while reports of abuse have fallen slightly, it doesn't necessarily mean the situation is improving.
"I don't think it reflects an actual trend. The trend is increasing, according to the statistics by the Social Welfare Department. Between January and March of 2022, we received fewer hotline calls, that is the period of the fifth wave of the pandemic," she said, adding that a number of serious child abuse cases had come to light in the past year.
Wong said official figures show that suspected physical abuse had seen a nine percent rise, while there had also been an increase in sexual abuse, negligence and mental abuse cases.
Sixty-five percent of suspected abusers were said to be family members of the children.
"Physical abuse is easier to be identified, because if somebody finds marks or bruises on the body of children, it will arouse their concerns and make them report the case to our agency," she said.
"Corporal punishment is closely related to physical abuse, and it is often mistakenly perceived as a way of discipline. But such kind of discipline is not only unhelpful, but also damages parent-child relationship."
The group urged the government to speed up legislation in this area, and review the maximum penalty for people convicted of child abuse.