Raymond Tang says race bill could cover minority schooling Human rights groups have a good case in their fight for a special curriculum on Chinese as a second language for minority students, the chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission said yesterday. However, Raymond Tang Yee-bong argued that it would be logically wrong to identify new arrivals from the mainland as a distinct race in the Race Discrimination Bill. The bill had its first reading in the Legislative Council on Wednesday following its release last month. Mr Tang said yesterday minority groups had a legitimate concern about the bill's most controversial exemption - that of the language of instruction in schools. '[The human rights groups] have a good case there. There is no way one can promote racial harmony without giving those affected a reasonable chance to acquire linguistic skills,' he said. The exclusion has been described by critics as a shield for the Education and Manpower Bureau against any legal implication for its lack of support for an alternative curriculum for minorities to learn in Chinese in mainstream schools. Mr Tang said that in his secondary school days there was a Cantonese curriculum tailored for Eurasians and other minorities as an alternative to the more difficult Chinese curriculum for native Chinese. 'If it could be done 50 years ago when I was young, there is no reason why you can't do it now,' he said. But he also urged human rights groups to address the problem in a realistic manner, explaining that Hong Kong did not have a critical mass of ethnic minority students to warrant the adoption of education systems introduced in some overseas countries to help minorities learn in a non-native language. Mr Tang also warned that too many exemptions in a law would open the way for many arguments and calls for justifications. Responding to criticisms of the government's exclusion of new mainland immigrants from the bill, Mr Tang said it would be impractical to consider them as a separate race, as doing so would require the drawing of a timeline to define mainland immigrants who would be considered 'new'. 'A cardinal principle in any regulation is regulatory consistency. But discrimination usually took place over a period of time,' he said. A regulation should not say that the same act by the same individual was okay on one side of the timeline, but not okay on the other side of the line, he said. Mr Tang also asked for constructive dialogue and compromise from all parties during the legislative process. He said it would be very sad if the bill had to be shelved or reintroduced to the new legislature in 2008, as this would mean many more years would pass before it would take effect. 'The bill may not win the Nobel Prize but it reflects a genuine effort on the part of the government to get it on the statute books,' he said. The bill is the outcome of almost 10 years of campaigning for racial discrimination to be outlawed. Mr Tang also called on the government - which this month broadened the jurisdiction of the commission to cover the bill and promised an initial injection of $6 million - to set up a litigation fund specifically for the commission to take complainants' cases to court. 'So far, we have not been constrained by our budget in determining which cases to take to court. We simply reduce our spending elsewhere, which is not good,' he said.