Several hundred protesters yesterday marched to the government's offices in Central, calling for the drafting of a more effective law against racial discrimination. The protesters were demonstrating against the Race Discrimination Bill, gazetted by the government at the end of last month, which they said contained too many exemptions that would essentially legalise existing discriminatory practices. Organised by equal rights group Hong Kong Unison, the march was backed by about a dozen groups representing ethnic minorities, as well as religious organisations. The protesters gathered in Edinburgh Square early in the afternoon and made their way through Christmas shoppers, chanting: 'Race law brings hope. More protection, less exemptions. No to defensive exemptions. Treat us equally.' Hong Kong Unison said about 1,200 people took part. Police put the figure at just under 400. Unison director Fermi Wong Wai-fun said she was satisfied with the turnout. 'Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong rarely take part in protests. They are very wary of upsetting the local Chinese population. The fact that so many turned out today shows how strongly they feel,' she said. Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body, said about 250 domestic helpers joined the march. 'There are a lot of exemptions for domestic helpers in the draft bill. This has really disappointed us,' she said. Exemptions such as the lack of coverage for live-in workers at private homes and the exclusion of companies with five employees or less meant the draft legislation would provide no protection to most domestic workers. Legislators Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Mandy Tam Heung-man, who have joined a Legislative Council committee to review the draft bill, both addressed the crowd. Ms Tam said experiencing indirect discrimination first-hand when living in Britain about 20 years ago had made her aware of similar practices in Hong Kong. 'In Britain, they call Chinese people 'Chinky' and make a gesture to suggest we have small eyes. In Hong Kong, we have names for you, too, and I don't think you like hearing them either,' she said. 'You need to voice out your opinions, make yourselves heard so that we can push for a more effective law.'