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Experts offer advice on avoiding family violence

Hong Kong parents' murders prompt debate

Ben Kuen spoke from first hand experience at a conference on family violence Ben Kuen spoke from first hand experience at a conference on family violence
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • March 22, 2013
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Hong Kong has one of the lowest murder rates in the world, which is perhaps what makes it all the more shocking that it has seen a recent spate of three murders in the space of just a few days. Two of them involve young men accused of frenziedly killing their parents.

One of the men, a 29-year-old, is said to have slaughtered his parents, dismembered their bodies and dumped their limbs into the sea. Media reports say his relationship with his parents was generally poor and he became enraged when they refused to help him repay a debt.

In another incident last weekend, a 19-year-old allegedly chopped his father to death and seriously injured his mother after they told him to stop playing computer games. News broadcasts showed the teenager crying hysterically and denying the murder when the police took him to the scene of the carnage.

The incidents have sparked an outpouring of soul-searching and vociferous debate on subjects such as the crumbling of Hong Kong’s rigid social structure, young peoples' alienation, income inequality, declining standards in parenting and the dangers of the internet.

It has also prompted a good deal of comment and advice on how to avoid incidents like these in future.

Ben Kuen was a speaker at a conference that was called this week to find ways and means to deal with the problem. He was able to offer first hand experience because, as a teenager with drug problems, he attacked his father with a kitchen knife, which led to his detention in a psychiatric ward.

“Men tend to remember the unhappy things when they are angry,” said Kuen, now in his 40s and a Christian convert.  “My dad loved me so much but I could only think of how he scolded me with bad language and beat me.”

As a practical offering, he suggested that tragedies can be avoided if people in a family quarrel agree to stop arguing for a while and give themselves time to cool down before returning to the issue.  

Dr Johnny Chan, a family therapist, endorsed the idea of a cooling-off period, adding that parents should not try to abruptly stop their children from excessively using a computer.

“Youngsters who have low esteem often resort to role-playing games to ease their melancholy,” he said. “After staying in the virtual world for several hours, they cannot immediately come back to reality when their parents stop them from playing.”

Dr. Chan compared this syndrome to the violent states that drug addicts can enter when going through withdrawal. He suggested that parents should talk to their children about their excessive use at a different time, when they appear calm.

Fred Lai, head of Caritas-Hong Kong’s Youth and Community Service, told ucanews.com that there are many “sub-clinical cases” in the community which are left unattended.

“One out of 10 children in Hong Kong is diagnosed with learning difficulties, and most of them are boys,” he said, adding that these boys are often being bullied verbally or physically.

“Under the ‘fight or flight’ response, they often choose first to escape from stress,” he said. “They may engage in role playing games often involve violence,  and gradually they fail to express their emotions appropriately. Then, once they are pushed into a corner in a real life situation, they fight back.”

Permanent Deacon William Li, who chairs the Catholic Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family, said that the modern phenomenon of working parents presents serious social problems. According to Li, children whose parents both work “get whatever they like,” instead of the parental care they need, which makes them more and more materialistic.

 His Commission has launched a course for Catholic couples, which stresses their responsibility as parents to educate their children at home on basic human values.

“Children should learn to have a thankful heart and the ability to see others’ needs,” he said.

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