How HK Defines Child Abuse

How HK Defines Child Abuse

Definition of Child Abuse in HK

Any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs the physical / psychological health and development of an individual under the age of 18. This is not a legal definition, but is set out in the Procedural Guide for Handling Child Abuse Cases to facilitate relevant professionals or personnel to safeguard the welfare of children being abused or at risk of abuse.

Child abuse includes:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Psychological Abuse

Legal aspect:

Child abuse can be committed in many different forms. There is no specific ordinance on child abuse. Depending on the act and circumstances, a child abuse perpetrator can be prosecuted under the Crimes Ordinance (Cap 200) for incest, rape, indecent assault, unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.; or under the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap 212) for exposing child whereby life is endangered, ill-treatment or neglect, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault, etc. Compare this with the legal framework of the US.

Child Neglect

Neglect is severe or a repeated pattern of lacking of attention to a child’s basic needs that endangers or impairs the child’s health or development. Neglect may be:

  • Physical (e.g. failure to provide necessary food, clothing or shelter, failure to prevent physical injury or suffering, lack of appropriate supervision or left unattended)
  • Medical (e.g. failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
  • Educational (e.g. failure to provide education or ignoring educational needs arising from a child’s disability )
  • Emotional (e.g. ignoring a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care);

Risk assessment indicators:

Physical Indicators  Behavioural Indicators 
  • Malnutrition, under-weight, or lacking sufficient quantity and / or quality of food
  • Delayed development
  • Severe rash or skin disorder
  • Left in care of inappropriate carer (e.g. young child)
  • Inadequately supervised for long periods or when engaged in dangerous activities
  • Unattended physical problems or unmet medical / dental needs
  • Chronically dirty / unkempt
  • Habitual absence from school or deprivation of schooling
  • Spoiled food found at home
  • Insanitary living conditions (garbage, excretion, etc.)
  • Young child unattended for long periods
  • Abandoned: totally or for long periods of time
  • Child confined at home
  •  Persistent complaints of hunger or rummaging for food, overtly aggressive eating habit or begs for / steals food
  • Assumes responsibilities inappropriate to age
  • Addiction
  • Delinquency
  • Complaints of inadequate care, supervision or nurturing
  • Being made to work excessive hours / beyond physical ability
  • Poor peer relationship
  • Responds to questions in monosyllables
  • Extreme apprehension
  • Sexual activity caused by inadequate supervision
  • Reluctant to return home
  • Runs away from home


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