Hong Kong has had to wait far too long for laws against racial discrimination. So it is good to know the legislation is about to be drafted. The focus should now be on making sure we get the best laws possible. But this will only be possible if the government is willing to reconsider key parts of its initial proposals - especially the intention that new arrivals from the mainland will not be covered by the laws. A public consultation, which was launched last September and set out the government's plans, ended last month. There were more than 200 responses, which are now being considered by the Home Affairs Bureau. The government has promised that a bill will be put before the Legislative Council this year. The deadline should be met, as there have already been too many delays. But the precise form that the laws will take remains unclear. The government's proposals were challenged during the consultation process on a number of grounds. The decision to enact the laws enjoys widespread support. But the government's proposals have been criticised for not going far enough. One issue that has prompted a strong reaction is the decision to exclude new arrivals from the mainland from the scope of the legislation. On Monday, we reported that the Law Society has formally expressed the view that immigrants from the mainland should be included. The government noted in the consultation paper that arrivals from the mainland 'sometimes face discrimination by Hong Kong's Chinese majority'. But the paper says the new racial discrimination laws should not cover mainland immigrants. It argues that they face social - not racial - discrimination. Most of them, it says, come from the 'same ethnic stock' as local Chinese people. In other words, they cannot be distinguished from Hong Kong people. This approach is technical, legalistic - and unjustified. Mainland immigrants to Hong Kong, unfortunately, face discrimination in many aspects of their everyday lives. The new laws should offer them protection. It does not matter whether the conduct concerned is called racial discrimination, social discrimination or something else. But even the government's legal arguments are unconvincing. It states that one of the prime reasons for enacting the new laws is to comply with Hong Kong's responsibilities under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racism. That legal document defines racial discrimination as that based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. The government argues that under this definition discrimination against mainland immigrants should not be covered. This approach overlooks the purpose of the convention. It is intended to set minimum standards. There is nothing in it to prevent Hong Kong from drafting the laws in a way that covers arrivals from the mainland. Some of the submissions made during the consultation suggest that the 'national origin' category could be defined in a way that covers mainlanders. Or, as in Australia, discrimination against immigrants generally could be outlawed. The Law Society rightly points to other international conventions that expressly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of 'social origin'. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights - applied to Hong Kong through the Basic Law - is one of them. There is no legal impediment to including arrivals from the mainland in the new laws. Indeed, this would be in accordance with Hong Kong's international obligations. The consultation paper welcomed views on this issue. Many have been expressed in favour of bringing discrimination against mainland arrivals within the scope of the laws. This is an opportunity to provide them with the protection they need. It should not be allowed to pass.