Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa last night sought to dispel fears that proposed curbs on demonstrations and societies were targeted at pro-democracy groups. Speaking to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Mr Tung made his first defence of proposed changes to the Societies and Public Order Ordinances since their publication last week. 'Let me assure you the SAR government has the strongest determination to preserve the freedoms that the people of Hong Kong currently enjoy.' The amendments were 'not aimed at any particular groups or persons or any individual organisations', he said. The Democratic Party and Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Democratic Patriotic Movement in China have said the curbs were aimed at tightening restrictions on their activities. 'Peaceful and lawful demonstrations can and must be allowed to continue. I see public demonstration as a way for people to express their views and public demonstrations are now a part of Hong Kong's culture,' Mr Tung said. He cited his own experience of the West as a justification for the restrictions. 'I witnessed firsthand the deterioration of social order as Western society became more permissive. I do not want to see this happen in Hong Kong. I do not want to see a Hong Kong which is permissive to the point where we start to surrender social order,' he said. The majority of cities in North America and Asia required police permission before demonstrations could be held, he said. His own proposals were 'much less restrictive'. 'The key question here for the community to debate is what is more important to the community - social order, inconvenience caused to the public at large, or individual rights? 'The spirit of the consultative exercise which is now being undertaken is to engage our society in a rational, reasonable and intellectual debate on how to strike the best balance between civil liberties and social order.' Mr Tung said the restriction on links between political parties and foreign individuals and political groups was more lenient than in the United States. 'The principle issue is: do we want Hong Kong political parties to have associations with foreign political parties? Do we want foreigners or foreign political parties to influence political direction in Hong Kong? 'I believe that the community will not want this to happen. Indeed, we should not let this happen.' Mr Tung will make his first visit to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority tomorrow. He drew concern over the status of the authority when he suggested its head should report directly to him from July 1, instead of to the Financial Secretary as under existing practice.