THE Secretary for Health and Welfare, Mrs Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, said yesterday that legislative measures against discrimination of the mentally handicapped would be adopted as a last resort. Against a background of recent objections to certain rehabilitation projects, Mrs Wong stressed the Government would step up public education activities in the hope of bringing about a real change in attitudes. Mrs Wong's assurance was offered in the light of recent opposition to the setting up of social welfare facilities for the mentally handicapped and discharged mental patients. The incidents prompted Legislative Councillor Mr Simon Ip Sik-on to ask the Government whether it had considered enacting any form of anti-discrimination ordinance. ''We consider that this is a last resort which should not be adopted unless there are valid and compelling reasons,'' Mrs Wong said in her written reply. ''Prejudice tends to be a child of ignorance, it is doubtful that it can really be overcome by legislative means alone.'' Mrs Wong said her branch would review its public education strategy together with the Hongkong Council of Social Service. She said the education department would also continue to cultivate positive attitudes in students in their formative years. ''General topics on disabilities and rehabilitation services have been included in the existing primary and secondary core curricula and the senior secondary and sixth form optional curricula,'' she said. Legislators yesterday agreed that the first priority should be promoting education as a preventive measure and cast doubts on the effectiveness of anti-discrimination legislation. Independent legislator Mr Eric Li Ka-cheung said it would be unfair for the people if the Government introduced this legislation before enough education had been provided. The best way would be to let the handicapped integrate completely and naturally into society, he said. Mr Li warned that once acts of discrimination were forbidden by law, society might become more resentful towards the mentally handicapped. Meeting Point legislator Mr Fred Li Wah-ming said the recent controversies created by the ex-mental patients clinic at Laguna City and the centre for the handicapped at Tung Tau Estate, Wong Tai Sin, arose from misunderstandings and a lack of communication between government authorities and residents. ''A single piece of legislation definitely could not solve the problem,'' he said. Another legislator, Dr Leong Che-hung said he hoped Hongkong would never make use of this last resort to protect the rights of the handicapped.