Yesterday was national Children’s Day, a day designated to celebrate the carefree happiness of youth. In line with the festive spirit, TV news viewers were treated to clips of beaming kids enjoying free rides on Taipei’s Maokong Gondola and discounts at amusement parks, interspersed with smiling government officials hugging children and getting on their knees to kiss toddlers.
As grown-ups from all walks of life and all corners of the nation grumble and fume over the government’s poor governance, its opaque policymaking and a recent series of commodity price increases, one would hope — and take comfort in thinking — that the nation’s youngsters, being at the tender age they are, could at least be spared from all the worries that their parents and guardians have to put up with under the incompetent administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Sadly, a close look at recent government statistics would suggest otherwise — not all the nation’s boys and girls are enjoying the joyful and untroubled childhood they rightly deserve.
Information from the Ministry of the Interior shows that cases of child abuse are on the rise. According to the ministry’s statistics, 56 children died as a result of abuse last year, or roughly one child per week. In 2007, the number of reported crimes committed against children and juveniles stood at 1,114. However, that number almost doubled to 2,188 last year.
In addition, the data show an alarming increase, more than 124 percent, in the number of cases of drug use involving minors — from 602 reported cases in 2007 to 1,349 last year. Other information from government agencies also shows that crimes on school campuses and incidences of reported bullying have increased during the past few years. Meanwhile, as People First Party Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) recently brought to the public’s attention, since 2008, the year Ma assumed the presidency, reports of missing children have also increased over the past three years.
All these disturbing figures suggest that the environment for the nation’s children and minors has deteriorated under Ma’s watch.
Children are often touted as being the “future.” It is every parent’s obligation to give their child the richest childhood experience possible. Needless to say, the government also bears a fundamental responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for the nation’s youngsters, so that they can grow, flourish and keep the nation strong.
We are often reminded how Ma prides himself on endorsing the human rights covenants — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — which he signed in 2009 to coincide with the culmination of his first year in office. Maybe Ma should be reminded to actually take a look at the two covenants since they both contain sections that address the rights of children to enjoy special protections.
What is the point of all the speeches and grandstanding on Children’s Day when, as the nation awakes this morning, all that remains are empty promises and the Ma administration’s failure to keep children out of harm’s away and improve their lives?