Hong Kong is well noted for its vibrant business community, stunning architecture and world-class shopping. At the same time, this modern metropolis/country is struggling with a social crisis in its schools and workplaces in the form of bullying and violence.
In a 2010 study conducted by the Department of Social Work in Hong Kong’s Chinese University, 1,800 teen students from eight of the area’s secondary schools were asked to give their input on school violence. Approximately 70.8% of the pupils reported being victims of violent bullying behavior. This percentage was marginally higher than bullying figures from the US, UK, Europe and Taiwan (53%-68%).
The poll identified boys as being the main perpetrators of violent behavior. It also showed that verbal abuse was the main form of violence followed by physical assault, sexual assault, intimidation, social abuse and blackmail. Dr. Chen Ji-kang, an assistant professor at Chinese University who helped conduct the survey, felt these bullying facts were cause for concern.
“School violence has a great negative impact on pupils and will affect their academic results, intention to go to school and their normal school life. So we should pay close attention to it,” Chen said.
Research shows the long term effects of bullying can cause physical and psychological problems later on in life. Some victims begin to emulate bullying behavior, further contributing to a school’s bullying problems. Survey results revealed that 52.7% of bullied students eventually bullied others, although the abusive behavior waned as they entered their senior year.
How to Handle Bullying Conflicts
Chen stresses the need for positive intervention and support programs in Hong Kong schools to help curtail bullying. Mediation programs offer one means of helping to stop bullying behavior.
Approximately 2,400 primary and secondary students from 40 Hong Kong schools participated in a nine year mediation project organized by the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society. The purpose of the project was to teach students how to deal with bullying conflicts so they could help resolve bullying issues that arose in their schools.
After 20 hours of mediation training, students were given opportunities to work as peer mediators to help prevent bullying behavior in their schools. In addition to curtailing bullying, the project taught students valuable people skills that would serve them well in the future.
Wong Yee-ning, a 17 year old student from Buddhist Yip Kei Nam Memorial College and former bully, participated in the mediation project. The communications and interpersonal skills she learned drastically changed her behavior.
Primary School Bullying in Hong Kong
Primary school bullying has been a problem in Hong Kong for years. The following primary bullying statistics came from a Wong, Lok, Lo and Ma school bullying survey conducted in 2002:
- Over 40% of students at the primary level reported being victims of bullies in school
- 87.5% of onlookers had been witnesses of verbal abuse by bullies
- 67.5% of onlookers had been witnesses of physical abuse
- Over a third of students surveyed had witnessed bullying over 11 times
Ten years later, news stories reveal that primary bullying continues to be an issue in Hong Kong schools. In December of 2013, local news reported the suicide death of 10 year old Law Cheuk Ki from the CCC Kei Chun Primary School due to bullying. Law attended the school’s special needs program due to a learning disability. The deputy principal of the school, Kao Wan-hua, had reported that Law’s schoolwork was ‘mediocre’.
From messages left on Law’s Facebook page by classmates, it appeared she suffered from bullying due to her learning disability. One girl wrote, “I’ve watched people bully you, why didn’t I help you? I really regret, you’re a kind person…” Chan Man-ho from Hong Kong’s Youth Crime Prevention Center noted that even teasing and mocking others can have serious consequences in a child’s life.
Hong Kong’s history of bullying behavior is long standing. The lack of progress in finding lasting solutions to bullying issues implies schools need to put more effective anti-bullying measures and strategies into place.
In her dissertation “Bullying Interventions in Hong Kong Primary Classrooms”, Bessy Chan, a Hong Kong University scholar, emphasized the role teachers play in stopping bullying behavior. Teachers’ reactions to bullying will affect the safety and security of their students. Many Hong Kong schools are adopting a proactive approach to bullying prevention that involves teaching kids social skills and increasing bullying awareness among students and adults, so everyone can be part of the solution.
Internet Bullying in Hong Kong
“Be Net-wise” was a 2009 initiative launched by the Internet Education Campaign to encourage online safety among Hong Kong youth. The initiative was coordinated by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups in conjunction with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. Under this initiative, research was conducted to determine the nature and degree of internet bullying activity among secondary students in Hong Kong schools.
In 2010, approximately 2,981 questionnaires were distributed, filled out and collected from junior and senior teen students in 18 secondary schools in the Hong Kong area. In addition, researchers interviewed 18 student volunteers concerning their involvement in cyberbullying activity within the previous year. Interviews from academics, social workers and members of the Hong Kong Internet Society were conducted at the same time.
The study revealed the following Internet bullying information and its effects on secondary school students in Hong Kong:
- Cyberbullying was becoming a problem among Hong Kong students
- Male students were more likely to bully or be bullied
- Student reactions to cyberbullying varied from seeking help to stop cyberattacks to ignoring the problem for fear of losing online privileges. Many considered cyberbullying a joke rather than problematic.
- The main cyber offense was spreading rumors and the main platform was social media
- Most bullies used personal computers after school to commit cyber offenses
- Bullies and victims were generally classmates
In conclusion, researchers felt it necessary to continue their focus on online bullying. They also felt schools should help students improve their communications and media literacy skills, put measures in place to report cyber offenses and promote greater awareness of online safety in order to minimize the dangers of cyberbullying attacks.
Cyberbullying Laws in Hong Kong
There are no laws against cyberbullying in Hong Kong per se; however cyber offenses that deal with defamation, intimidation or infringement of property can be addressed by existing laws covering these criminal acts. Cyber offenses involving the theft of personal information, for example, can be prosecuted under Hong Kong’s Data Protection Principles (DPP) covered in the Personal Data Ordinance.
Individuals who contravene a Data Protection Principle may be served an ‘enforcement notice’ by the Privacy Commissioner to rectify the problem. Failure to comply with this notice is a criminal offense that can be penalized with a $50,000 fine, prison sentence of 2 years and $1,000 daily fine for continuing cases.
Hong Kong’s Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) handles issues regarding cyber security and crime. According to the CSTCB, the following are some examples of the latest cyberbullying trends in Hong Kong:
• Social Media Fraud
• E-Banking and E-mail Scams
• Online Blackmail
Workplace Bullying in Hong Kong
A 2013 office bullying survey revealed that 50% of Hong Kong workers were bullied at work. Most suffered their plight in silence due to fear of losing their jobs.
The most common bullying offenses were verbal abuse, exclusion by work colleagues and being assigned tasks nobody else wanted. Approximately 53% of the 509 workers who randomly partook of the Vital Employee Service Consultancy phone survey reported being a victim of one or more of these bullying tactics. Over 68% reported being bullied by managers or supervisors. Only one out of every 10 reported unfair treatment to their firms.
According to Vital consultant Suen Lap-man, most victims are reluctant to report bullying cases due to fear of retaliation. Suen suggested employees take a united stance against bullying rather than trying to fight it on their own. “Many people think workplace bullying is none of their business as long as they are not involved. But at the end of the day everyone will be affected if bullying becomes a part of the office culture,” she said.
By taking a united stance against bullying in schools and businesses, Hong Kong teachers, parents and workers help build a better society for all.