Hong Kong police on Monday removed some barricades used by pro-democracy protesters who have been occupying main roads in the Asian financial center for more than two weeks.

Officers started taking away unmanned metal barricades and plastic safety barriers at the edges of the city's Central financial district at 5:30 a.m., ahead of rush hour.

In response, protest leaders used social media to call for help from supporters to reinforce other barricades. Dozens of protesters locked arms and faced off against officers in a brief standoff at the other end of the protest zone in the Admiralty district.

Police said they also removed some barricades from another protest zone, across Victoria Harbor in the crowded Mong Kok shopping district. Police said they didn't want to clear the entire protest zone but instead wanted to relieve congestion and reduce the chance of traffic accidents.

"Today we haven't come to clear the area," a police officer told protesters on local TV. "We just want to clear the barricades blocking the road and take back the government's tools and other property."

The student-led protesters are occupying a busy thoroughfare as well as streets in two shopping districts. They want the government to drop plans to use a pro-Beijing committee to screen candidates in the territory's inaugural 2017 election for top leader.