Systematic child abuse incidents in a children’s residential home in Hong Kong: regulatory and criminal law reform proposals

Wing hong Chui, Henry Kao, Aaron H.L. Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Purpose: The paper aims to recommend legal and regulatory reforms to better prevent child abuse in childcare institutions in Hong Kong. Design/methodology/approach: A summary of investigation report and news reports are referred to in describing the abuse incidents which occurred in a children’s residential home. Routine Activity Theory (RAT) is used as the framework for identifying the causes. Local and overseas legislation, regulations, case law, and policies are analysed to provide recommendations for reforms. Findings: There are systematic failures such as workload issues, inadequate supervision, and the absence of continuing professional development (CPD) that contributed to the incidents. The regulations governing the operation of childcare centres and criminal laws against child abuse are long overdue for an update in Hong Kong. On the institutional side, this paper recommends enacting regulations that mandate CPD, lower the staff-to-child ratio, and strengthen the Social Welfare Department’s (SWD) supervisory powers over childcare centres. From the criminal law perspective, it is recommended that “reasonable chastisement” be abolished as a defence of corporal punishment, and that there be new offences for failure to report suspected child abuse incidents and causing or allowing the death/serious harm of a child. Originality/value: The child abuse incidents, occurring in a childcare institution, have drawn wide public concern. Reform is required to protect vulnerable children and regain public confidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalPublic Administration and Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2023


  • Child abuse
  • Children’s residential home
  • Criminal law
  • Legal reform
  • Regulatory reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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