Police in Hong Kong say nearly 5,000 people have marched in a New Year's Day protest against an attempt by the government to disqualify four pro-democracy lawmakers.

The Hong Kong 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 government won a similar challenge against two newly elected separatist lawmakers.

Protesters on Sunday held placards in support of the four lawmakers.

One of the legislators, Edward Yiu, said the government's legal move was destroying Hong Kong's democratic system.

Police said around 4,800 people took part in the march. Organizers said more than 9,000 participated.