Thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists forced the temporary closure of government headquarters after clashing with police. Chaos erupted as commuters made their way to work, with hundreds of protesters surrounding Admiralty Centre, which houses offices and retail outlets, in a stand-off with police.

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Pro-democracy protesters clash with police as they try to take over Lung Wo Road outside Hong Kong's government complexChris McGrath/Getty Images

Hundreds of riot police scattered the crowds in several rounds of heated clashes overnight, forcing protesters back with pepper spray and batons.

Protesters wearing protective goggles and body armour refused to leave the area and continued to press against police lines, throwing bottles, helmets and umbrellas at police.

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Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters close to the chief executive office in Hong KongTyrone Siu/Reuters
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Police officers use pepper spray as they clash with pro-democracy protesters outside Hong Kong's government complexChris McGrath/Getty Images
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Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protestersTyrone Siu/Reuters
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Police advance on pro-democracy protesters at the Admiralty MTR stationChris McGrath/Getty Images
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A police officer raises his baton as he restrains a protester on the ground at Tamar, near the government headquarters in the Admiralty district of Hong KongDale de la Rey/AFP
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A riot police officer uses pepper spray on a pro-democracy protesterTyrone Siu/Reuters
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Riot police arrest a pro-democracy protester during clashes outside Central Government ComplexLam Yik Fei/Getty Images
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A police officer uses a baton on a pro-democracy protester near the office of the chief executive in Hong KongTyrone Siu/Reuters

Scores of volunteer medics attended to numerous injured people, some of whom lay unconscious and others with blood streaming from head gashes.

Police said at least 40 arrests were made.

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A photographer is treated after pro-democracy protesters clashed with riot police outside Hong Kong government complexLam Yik Fei/Getty Images
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A pro-democracy protester who came into contact with pepper spray is helped by volunteersBobby Yip/Reuters
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A pro-democracy protester is treated after police used pepper sprayBobby Yip/Reuters
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Pro-democracy protesters use makeshift shields, including a road signTyrone Siu/Reuters
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A pro-democracy protester wearing goggles prepares to face the police in the Admiralty districtPhilippe Lopez/AFP
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A pro-democracy protester wearing goggles and with cling film wrapped around his mouth watches as police prepare to take actionChris McGrath/Getty Images

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said police had been very tolerant but would now take "resolute action", suggesting that patience may have finally run dry.

"Some people have mistaken the police's tolerance for weakness," Leung told reporters. "I call for students who are planning to return to the occupation sites tonight not to do so."

hong kong democracy protests
Police shout at pro-democracy protesters during a rally close to the chief executive office in Hong KongTyrone Siu/Reuters

The protesters are demanding free elections for the city's next leader in 2017 rather than the vote between pre-screened candidates that Beijing has said it would allow.

The Hong Kong rallies drew more than 100,000 onto the streets at their peak. Numbers have since dwindled and public support for the movement has waned.

The democracy movement represents one of the biggest threats for China's Communist Party leadership since Beijing's bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy student protests in and around Tiananmen Square.