It is only the tip of the iceberg – large increase in public care homes urgently needed!
Socialist Action reporters
Yesterday, on October 20, over 500 people gathered outside of the headquarters of the Social Welfare Department (SWD), in Wanchai, protesting the systemic failure of the private residential care homes for the elderly and mentally disabled.
The protest was sparked by the sexual assault case against Cheung Kin-wah, the former leader of Bridge of Rehabilitation Co, which was dismissed since the courts would not accept the testimony of the mentally disabled victim, despite physical evidence. This former facility leader has been outspoken in the past days about the case, using victim blaming language and saying that the victim was crazy and trying to seduce him.
Speakers stated that this was not an isolated case but the tip of the iceberg, with sexual and other abuse of the elderly and mentally disabled in private care facilities in Hong Kong being widespread. Speakers included mentally disabled persons and families of mentally disabled persons, some of whom were from community organisations. One of these speakers was a lady whose older sister had been raped in a care home multiple times, but as a young adults and now as an older adult, she had been unable to seek justice for this sister. Other speakers included members of the legislative council and social workers from various organisations, some of whom stated they had fought the same battle over similar cases before and were asking why nothing has changed. Speakers stressed that even if they successfully closed down the Bridge of Rehabilitation Co, there were and would be plenty more like this care facility, and the system itself was the problem.
One and a half hours into the event, which started at 7 pm, the Director of the SWD, Ms. Carol Yip, came down to make a statement and receive the written requests of various groups. While the groups demanded an overhaul of the private caring system towards a public one that would be properly overseen by the government and accountable to the public, Ms. Yip expressed that the department had to be careful and consider the needs of every one of its users before making each and every decision. Attendees expressed their disatisfaction verbally. Then as Ms. Yip and her entourage retreated back upstairs to their offices, many red piece of paper, which organisers had originally given attendees to show as a symbol of their support, were thrown. Organisers expressed they would continue to take action to demand radical change in the system.
The government is under hugh mass pressure and now the social welfare department has announced that they will revoke the licence of the Bridge of Rehabilitation Co. The Hong Kong government and social welfare department are the most to be blamed. Although Cheung was arrested because of sexual assault in 2014, the social welfare department continued the contract in 2015 for another 18 months to this private care home. The government does not want to close down the care home because they do not want to take the responsibillity to re-accomodate the residents. The disastrous condition of private mental homes are caused by the market-based system, which government do not provide public mental homes for the disabled, and people needed help can only choose to pay for private homes, as this particular case shown. Public care homes are now urgently needed for all mental and disabled.
Socialist Action demand to hold an independent investigation of Cheung, with committee members consisted of families of the victim, residents of the care home and psychologists. We also demand to the government to largely increase the number of public care homes, to provide enough accommodation and qualified nurses for the mental and disabled.