‘Government must probe all child deaths’

A member of the Commission on Children said on Wednesday that the government needs to set up a system to investigate all deaths of children after official figures showed a sharp increase in suicides.

Priscilla Lui was commenting on RTHK’s Hong Kong Today programme after a government advisory panel said child suicides in the period between 2016 and 2018 were at more than double the level in the previous three-year period.

The Children Review Fatality Panel said of 259 reported underage deaths, 61 percent were from natural causes; around 23 percent committed suicide. Lui said the government should investigate each case to identify trends and put more resources into preventing deaths from all causes.

“I think the entire situation deserves serious resources, both in policies, legislation, education and the system itself,” she told RTHK’s Samantha Butler.

She said children of various ages had been living under “appalling conditions” to the extent they took their own lives, while others had been assaulted, leading to their death.

“One of the suggestions that we hope the government will quickly attend to is to ensure a fatality inquiry system is in place, in Hong Kong, and start to review those horrific cases, like the assaulted to death ones and those very young children, ten year olds and so on, who kill themselves.”

Publishing the findings of its latest report on Tuesday, the panel said suicide was the second most common cause of death among children. Other deaths were caused by accidents, assault, non-natural unascertained cause and medical complications.

The panel said the causes of suicide are complex, but academic issues are believed to be a contributing factor in around 40 percent of the cases.

Among the suicide cases, 42 percent had received help from professionals such as social workers, teachers and psychiatrists. Tang Chun-bun, a panel member and group convenor of suicide cases, said it could be difficult even for professionals to prevent such cases from happening.