Draft discrimination law seen as worse than doing nothing The proposed race-relations law exempts so many discriminatory practices that it breaches international civil rights law, the man who was almost the Equal Opportunities Commission's operations director says. Patrick Yu Chung-yin, executive director of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, said the city would be better off having no anti-race-discrimination law at all than enacting the Race Discrimination Bill as it stands. 'The principle of a race law is to protect vulnerable groups,' he said. 'But this one we have cannot protect anyone. It violates UN conventions. What is the point of having this law?' Mr Yu was appointed to the commission in 2003 by its then-chief, Anna Wu Hung-yuk, but was sacked by her successor, Michael Wong Kin-chow, before he could assume the post. His sacking sparked a scandal that ended with Mr Wong's resignation. Mr Yu, who was awarded an OBE for services to community relations last year, said the law as drafted breached Article 26 of the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It states that all people are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. The bill, released in November after more than a decade of debate, outlaws discrimination, harassment and vilification on the grounds of race in employment; education; provision of facilities, services and premises; election and appointment to public bodies; access to barristers; and membership and access to clubs. But it includes a wide range of exemptions, including the language of instruction in schools. It allows preferential treatment of overseas staff for reasons other than race and differential treatment on the basis of nationality and residency status and for indigenous villagers. It has also been criticised for not including newly arrived mainlanders as a racial group. 'Mainland immigrants are not ethnic minorities but the fact is they are facing discrimination,' Mr Yu said. 'We must tackle this by putting new arrivals within the meaning of a racial group.' He objected to most of the bill's Article 4 provisions. The article permits discrimination if: The person discriminated against is part of a small minority; The discriminatory act is rational, proportionate and in the service of a legitimate and justifiable objective; It is impractical not to discriminate; Not allowing someone to discriminate would be overly disruptive to their activities, or require them to provide extra services or facilities or require ongoing extra spending. '[Such] provisions in the UK are for affirmative action,' Mr Yu said. 'But in Hong Kong, they become exemptions.' He suggested government departments needed to practise affirmative action. 'A race discrimination law is about treating people equally,' Mr Yu said. 'But it is not enough, because in reality vulnerable groups are in a disadvantageous situation. The government needs to implement adjustment measures to enhance their access to resources.' The Home Affairs Bureau said it would not make affirmative action mandatory. Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Donald Tong Chi-keung said the disputed articles were needed to provide clarity and to ensure the bill would be acceptable to all parties, especially those who would be affected by the law. Mr Tong also said Article 22 of the Bill of Rights used exactly the same language as Article 26 of the UN covenant and was already Hong Kong law. The bill would be subsidiary to Article 22, meaning the article would override any provisions of the race law. 'We have examined each of the proposed clauses before their inclusion and are satisfied that they are consistent with the internationally accepted principles of rationality and proportionality,' the bureau said. Mr Yu will make a submission to the Legislative Council's bills committee about the legislation.