HONG KONG -- Nearly 5,000 people in Hong Kong marched in a New Year's Day protest against an attempt by the semi-autonomous Chinese city's government to disqualify four pro-democracy lawmakers, police said.
Hong Kong's government has started legal proceedings against the four recently elected legislators, who altered their swearing-in oaths to stage apparent protests against the Chinese government in Beijing.
In November, the Hong Kong government won a similar challenge against two newly elected separatist lawmakers after Beijing said that anyone who doesn't properly take their oath should be barred from office. Beijing's intervention fueled growing concern among many Hong Kong residents that China's government is eroding the city's wide autonomy.
Some protesters on Sunday held flags reading "Hong Kong independence" and placards in support of the four lawmakers. One of the legislators, Edward Yiu, added phrases about democracy during his oath-taking.
Yiu said that the Hong Kong government's legal move was destroying the city's democratic system, and that lawmakers "must be protected because they are elected by hundreds of thousands of voters."
"It's not just about injustice; it's about protecting our democratic system," Yiu said.
Police said around 4,800 people took part in the march. Organizers said 9,100 participated. (AP)