Taxi drivers and maids' employers have joined the chorus of those who fear they may fall foul of the new anti-racism law, which requires public services and private businesses to provide ethnic minorities with translation services. Amid the outcry, the Hospital Authority said yesterday it would begin providing translation services for non-local patients before the end of the year. The move would make the authority the first public institution to offer such services since lawmakers on Thursday struck down a proposed exemption to the anti-racism bill that would have offered blanket protection against language discrimination litigation. That stung small and medium-sized enterprises, which fear higher costs or the risk of litigation. A taxi driver appearing on an RTHK public affairs programme yesterday asked whether he could wind up in court if he did not talk with a foreign customer, and an elderly man asked if he would have to hire an interpreter for his Indonesian maid. Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen assured listeners that the law was reasonable. 'We are now preparing a code of practice with the Equal Opportunities Commission, and it will strike a balance between different interests upon implementation of the law ... small and medium enterprises, schools and vocational training centres do not have to worry [about straining their resources by offering translation services].' However, that was not enough for Unison Hong Kong executive director Fermi Wong Wai-fun, who said the law would be useless if it did not cover the government or educational institutions. 'The law also does not cover the Immigration Ordinance and there are no effective mechanisms to help an individual sue the government in the event of racial discrimination,' she said.