II. Violence against children
A. Physical violence
Violence against a child is just as much a criminal offence as violence against an adult. The Offences Against the Person Ordinance (“OAPO”), Cap. 212 , contains a number of offences relating to the unlawful use of force. These offenses range from common assault to inflicting grievous bodily harm, and to murder. What charge will be brought will depend upon the particular circumstances involved, the amount of force used, and the intent with which the force was used. The OAPO also contains offences specifically relating to children and young persons.
B. Exposing a child to a situation whereby the Child’s life is endangered
Section 26 of the OAPO makes it an offence to unlawfully abandon or expose any child under the age of two years to any situation whereby the life of the child is endangered or its health is, or is likely to be, permanently injured. The offence is punishable on indictment by ten years imprisonment, and upon summary conviction , by three years imprisonment. The offence may be committed without any direct force being applied to the child. The purpose of this law is to prevent action or inaction which endangers the life or long term health of the child and is apposite to Convention Article 19.
C. Ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of a child or young person
Under section 27 of the OAPO it is an offence for a person over the age of 16 years who has the custody, charge or care of any child or young person under that age to wilfully assault, ill-treat, neglect, abandon or expose such child or young person to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed in a manner likely to cause that child or young person unnecessary suffering or injury to health. The words “ unnecessary suffering or injury to health” includes injury to or loss of sight, or hearing or a limb or organ of the body or any mental derangement.
Section 27 covers both positive action and neglect. Neglect includes failing to provide adequate food, clothing or lodging for the child or young person, or knowingly and wilfully failing to take steps to obtain adequate food clothing or lodging for the child from an authority, society or institution which makes such provision for children or young persons in need. There is a positive duty upon persons over 16 years of age to seek help from relevant institutions if they are unable, for whatever reason, to care for a child or young person under 16 years of age in their custody, charge, or care. Section 27 offences are punishable on conviction on indictment by imprisonment for 10 years and upon summary conviction by imprisonment for three years. The activities described in section 27 of the OAPO are also apposite to the requirements of Convention Article 19.
D. Forcible taking or detention of a person with intent to sell that person
Under section 42 of the OAPO , it is an offence for any person by force or fraud, to take away or detain against his or her will any man or boy, woman, or female child, with intent to sell him or her or to procure a ransom or benefit for his or her liberation. Section 42 offences are punishable by life imprisonment.
E. Stealing a child under 14 years old
Under section 43 of the OAPO it is an offence to unlawfully, by any means, lead, take away, decoy, entice or detain any child under the age of 14 years with the intention of depriving any parent, guardian, or other person having the lawful care or charge of such child, of the possession of the child. The offence is punishable by seven years imprisonment. Both the adoptive parent(s) of a child under the age of 14 years, and the employer of a child under the age of 14 years, are deemed to have the lawful care or charge of such a child. This does not affect any rights conferred upon the Director of Social Welfare under the Protection of Children and Juveniles Ordinance , Cap. 213 .
Sections 42 and 43 of the OAPO may be seen as enforcing the unity of the family. They are directed towards preserving the child’s connection with the family and protecting the child from abuse and exploitation.