Fears of non-governmental organisations operating in the territory that their activities could be curbed by proposed amendments to the Societies Ordinance are genuine. Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-hwa and his advisers must act quickly to allay their concerns. Human rights groups, environmental organisations and labour unions invariably are involved in political - in its broadest sense - activities. They often criticise government policies and occasionally participate in demonstrations. Are they deemed political organisations? Should their foreign funding, of which many NGOs rely on, and their overseas connections, be severed? Without foreign donations, many if not all of them probably will cease to exist. Mr Tung's office defines political organisations as those societies which directly participate in political activities relating to government institutions and comment on public affairs as their main objective. The definition seems all-encompassing, and many NGOs will risk being classified as such. For healthy long-term development of the territory, NGOs should be allowed to continue to receive funding from overseas. It would only benefit the area if green, labour and human rights groups can continue indefatigably to defend people's rights and comment on official policies no matter how infallible certain quarters in the community think the future Special Administrative Region government may be. Society needs safety valves to avoid upheavals. NGOs may serve this purpose well. Before labour, environmental and human rights issues become implosive, people's frustrations and grievances can be vented through activities organised by them. This can only be conducive to a stable, democratic and prosperous Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty. Distinctions must be made unequivocally between political parties whose main objective is to seek political power, and NGOs whose primary goals are to champion for the rights of people over labour, environmental and human rights issues. No doubt some NGO activities are political in nature, but they should hardly be classified as political organisations. Even when a member of an NGO was elected to the legislature or municipal council, the NGO concerned should not be regarded as a political party if pursuing political power remains outside the ambit of its activities. It is reassuring that Mr Tung promised last week changes could be made to the definition of political organisations. NGOs and their supporters are still waiting.