Girls in Justice


Recorded January 28, 2021


Eric Chui

Karen Joe Laidler

Hongwei Zhang

Lindsay Ernst

If you would like to ask any of our panelists a question, go to their bio page and click on Start a Conversation

While Hong Kong and Guangzhou have attracted much media attention over the last few years, one issue that has gone overlooked is the treatment of girls in the justice system. This webinar serves as an in-depth discussion about girls in conflict with the law in Hong Kong and Guangzhou.

The panel includes three experts on aspects of juvenile justice and moderated by Lindsay Ernst, a clinical legal education specialist at the University of Hong Kong, specializing in developing interdisciplinary, experiential learning opportunities, focusing on advancing social justice and human rights. 

Sociology professor and Director of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong Karen Joe Laidler discusses trends in juvenile offending in Hong Kong over a 30-year period. Presenting statistics and trends, Laidler’s presentation also highlights a puzzling trend: the proportion of girls 15 and under arrested is higher than their slightly older counterparts.

Eric Chui, a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Dean of Students at City University of Hong Kong, presents on a unique research project where his research team worked with social workers to study Hong Kong juveniles in gangs. Filtering the research through Hirschi’s social bond theory, Chui’s work, while not statistically representative, suggests that gang affiliation predicts higher rates of violent crime among boys and higher rates of theft among girls.

Zhang Hongwei, Dean of the School of Humanities and a professor at the Juvenile & Family Law Research Center at Jinan University in Zhuhai, elaborates on his previous presentation in Juvenile Incarceration: Alternatives, describing the trends of juvenile offending in China as well as how changes to China’s civil code are trying to provide alternatives to carceral systems. His presentation also touches on the unique needs of female juvenile offenders.

Here are some takeaways from the event:

“One issue we’ve been thinking about is how and whether these declines are connected in some way with changes in how young people interact and engage with social media, spending less time, perhaps, in public spaces. It gives us pause to reflect on what this means in relation to where juvenile justice policy has gone from the early 1980s throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s.” – Karen Joe Laidler

“For males we find that weak parental attachments predict theft and violence. Whereas for females, a weakened belief in the legal system predicts theft, but not violence, for female youth street gang members.” – Eric Chui

“We are hoping over the next few years, national legislation will enact more detailed regulations on how to implement the specialized schools for the juveniles (for reform). And we are hoping they can set up rules to officiate how to put the boys and girls into those specialized schools so that we can see how gender perspectives could be applied in the juvenile justice system.” – Zhang Hongwe


Girls in Hong Kong
Alternatives to Incarceration in China
Annotated Bibliography: Girls in Conflict with the Law