Journalists and human rights activists marked World Press Freedom Day yesterday with a warning about the erosion of rights and freedoms under the SAR Government. The Hong Kong Journalists' Association said Government plans to introduce legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law would undermine press freedom. 'It is clear that such laws would pose a grave threat to freedom of expression,' the association said. 'The advocacy of independence for Taiwan or criticism of Chinese leaders could fall foul of the new laws,' it added. The Government has said it will introduce draft legislation under Article 23 - which prohibits treason, subversion and secession - in the new Legislative Council. Foreign Correspondents' Club president Keith Richburg said attempts to enact Article 23 would introduce the notion of political crime into law. 'The article might open the door to the suppression of free expression and free press,' he said. In a separate statement, 13 world media and human rights groups called on the Chinese and SAR governments to protect the freedom and welfare of journalists. 'We are gravely concerned about the erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong since China regained control on July 1, 1997 and urge this deterioration be halted before it worsens,' the statement said. 'We further ask that authorities actively protect and promote the professional and personal welfare of journalists and other independent media personnel working in all of China so as to allow for a truly free and independent press.' Signatories to the statement include Human Rights Watch, France's World Association of Newspapers, the writers' union PEN in Britain, the United States and Canada, and Sri Lanka's Free Media Movement.