LONDON (AFP) - A Scottish judge cleared a student from China of a motoring offence after claiming that "all Chinese people can look the same", a newspaper has reported.

Sheriff Margaret Gimblett dismissed the evidence of two police officers who had identified Hui Yu, 23, who had been charged with driving without insurance.

She was quoted by The Times Monday as telling Greenock Sheriff Court, near Glasgow: "Without wanting to be derogatory in any way, sometimes it is said that all black people look the same at first glance and the same can be said that all Chinese people can look the same to a native Scot.

"It's only when you have time to look that you begin to see the differences."

Two police officers identified Hui as a man they stopped at a petrol station but Hui denied the offence, saying he was at his girlfriend's flat at the time.

Seemingly agreeing with Gimblett, Hui said after the case: "It is true that people from one nationality or race can look the same to people from another nationality or race.

"It is the same for Chinese people -- we find it quite hard at first to tell the difference between groups of Scots," the Times quoted him as saying.

A spokesman for Britain's Commission for Racial Equality watchdog said that the sheriff's comments were "not particularly helpful".

But both the Chinese headteacher of the Chinese School in Glasgow and the chairman of the Scotland-China Association backed Gimblett, saying the comments were not meant to be derogatory.