A new approach to combat spousal abuse within a Chinese cultural context : the use of restorative justice in Hong Kong

在中國文化底蘊下處理配偶虐待的新手法 : 復和公義在香港的應用

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Louis Wai Yin MOK


Awarding Institution
Award date2 Oct 2013


Spousal conflicts and abuse have been alarming between couples in the past decades. Failures in managing minor conflicts or occasional abusive behaviors might lead to serious hurts to both parties and continuation of violence. In responding to the severe problem of spousal abuse in Hong Kong, current services and policies ought to be reviewed and evaluated so that their potential can be achieved. From this, new strategies that are cognizant of local context would in turn be incorporated into policies for tackling spousal abuse. Recently, there is a growing trend to explore whether restorative justice is useful as a process for resolving the conflicts surrounding spousal abuse. Although similar practices have not been formally incorporated into Hong Kong, some intervention tactics adopted in overseas countries may be considered as an effective practice for Chinese couples if cultural sensitive issues are taken care of. A cultural sensitive theoretical framework, the tripod restorative justice model, is developed and employed to discover how restorative justice could be used under the Chinese cultural context in Hong Kong. The tripod model consists of three pillars to examine (1) the cultural compatibility of restorative justice; (2) the general public acceptance towards the use of restorative justice; and (3) the basic conditions for suitable spousal abuse cases for restorative justice practices. In addition, the model has two handles to investigate the possible ways to advance the dominating 'Western' restorative justice process by embedding local contexts into a new restorative justice process model. Furthermore, the study will also explore the expectations from victims, abusers and practitioners on adopting restorative justice practices and make policy recommendations based on research findings. The study mainly adopts a qualitative research method with the help of in-depth interviewing technique to examine different concepts of the tripod restorative justice model. A total of 17 victims, 3 abusers and 16 social welfare practitioners have been interviewed to triangulate their perceptions towards the use of restorative justice. Besides, two quantitative surveys are employed to provide supplementary findings and broaden the scope of investigation. The key findings show that restorative justice is supported by the three pillars of the tripod model with evidences. In particular, restorative justice has the potential to be developed under its compatibility with Chinese cultural values that are vested in the community. With the establishment of basic conditions for assessing the suitability of the clients and adequate public support, restorative justice could further be applied within a local context. Furthermore, the overall effectiveness in conducting restorative justice practices could be enhanced with various professional methods and tactics that shared by the social welfare practitioners. A set of basic principles were formulated as a result of the integration of all key findings in the study and they offer a practical reference for the adoption of restorative justice approach in Hong Kong. The study comes to a conclusion that restorative justice could be seen as a viable option for Hong Kong and could further bring positive outcomes for the potential victims, abusers and their family members and supporters towards a harmonious future.

    Research areas

  • Hong Kong, Restorative justice, Spousal abuse, China, Civilization