Sun, Oct 07, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Short-term populism is worthless

By Jason Yeh 葉家興

For example, by specifying only those who have violated the Anti-Drug Control and Prevention Ordinance, the clause does not apply to children of perpetrators of other serious crimes, such as murder, robbery or illegal use of firearms. This is just one example of misguided legislating.

In addition, the second part of this amendment states that, should “the judicial police officer, judicial police, prosecutor or the court judge” be informed after the investigation commences that the child is not receiving adequate care, then this is to be reported to the competent authorities, that is, the “government authority at the municipal and county level.”

What is the practical benefit of dividing this process into two stages like this? Why would the authorities not assist with the provision of safe housing or care, as required, from the start?

In addition, family members of defendants in narcotics cases are often suspicious of the motives of the police, the prosecutors and the courts during the course of the investigation.

Wang Hao’s father, when sent to prison for drugs offenses, was asked whether there were any children within the family that required care. Fearing that the child would be taken away, the father said that there were none — with tragic results.

This shows how easy it is for family members to misunderstand when people acting on behalf of the authorities interview them. This makes it extremely difficult for the authorities to assess the actual living conditions of the children.

Nobody is saying that children and young people living in high-risk families do not need extra care and resources. However, unless legislative amendments are well thought out and properly handled, they often just plug up one leak only to have another, perhaps even bigger, spring elsewhere.

There are legitimate concerns over whether there is a conflict of interests when legislators act as social workers. Is there a substantive benefit to this trade-off, or is it simply a case of too many cooks?

Children are the next generation of taxpayers. For this government, with its habit of accumulating debt, they are the most valuable asset it has. To play this game of short-term populism is going to do little more than help the legislators feel good about themselves. In the end, it will prove worthless and will do little to protect the next generation.

Jason Yeh is an associate professor in the Department of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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