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More domestic violence in Hong Kong

Published: 11:54PM Friday January 26, 2007 Source: Reuters

Domestic violence cases jumped 79% in Hong Kong last year, prompting calls for concerted government action to halt the trend.

Police figures revealed 4,704 "domestic violence" cases in 2006 compared with 2,628 the year before.

A majority of the cases involved heated "disputes" or a "breach of peace", but 1,811 were classified as crimes, including nine murders, nine rapes and 137 cases of injuries.

Experts partly attributed the surge to rising social tensions in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule, with a growing number of marriages between Hong Kong men and mainland women failing.

Social groups have urged a domestic violence court be established and outdated laws amended to better protect victims.

"It's the tip of the iceberg," said Margaret Wong, Executive Director of Harmony House, a shelter for battered women. "We don't want (abusers) throwing people down 50 floors and things like that. (It) happens every year," she added.

In 2004, a husband jumped to his death from a high-rise block after murdering his wife and two children in a case that shocked the city. Last November, a man chopped his ex-wife and two daughters to death with a knife after a difficult divorce.

The rise in cases also reflected a growing awareness and sense of empowerment among local women to stand up and report abuses that might otherwise have gone un-noticed, Wong said.

"In the last couple of years, there've been a number of traumatic domestic tragedies in the community and I think ... that did raise awareness and sensitivity among the public and frontline professionals dealing with domestic violence and that has caused a rise in the reporting of such cases."