Hong Kong Clashes
A pro-democracy demonstator holds off an anti-Occupy Central protester in Hong Kong's Mong Kok districtReuters

Clashes between thousands of rival protesters broke out in Hong Kong hours after student leaders accepted an offer of talks with the government following days of turmoil.

Scuffles erupted in Kowloon's crowded Mong Kok district as local residents and pro-Beijing demonstrators attempted to forcibly remove pro-democracy activists from the street they were occupying in protest.

The standoff saw two generations of Hong Kong citizens opposed, as the large number of residents were visibly older than smaller group of students they were trying to force out by yelling and shoving.

Police attempted to defuse tensions, forming cordons to separate the groups and escorting some of the protesters away.

"I would like to appeal to members of the public that they should observe the laws of Hong Kong when they are expressing their views," police spokesman Steve Hui said.

However, some criticised police saying security forces were late to intervene.

"We saw people with no uniforms in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok attack protesters and take away their belongings," said Cyd Ho, vice-chairwoman of the Labor Party.

"Police have the duty to safeguard peaceful demonstrations by Hong Kong citizens," Ho said. "If police do not intervene, this sets a dangerous precedent... that if people are unhappy with protesters, they can attack them with impunity."

Protests in favour of democratic reforms in the former British colony started last month after Beijing decided that it was to screen candidates for the first election in the territory in 2017.

Earlier this week demonstrators threatened to escalate their actions and occupy government buildings if Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying was not to step down.

Permanent camps and sit-ins were set up. But some residents have complained that the wave of unrest has undermined their livelihoods.

"It affected my company, a perfume business, to deliver goods in the area," said Ken Lai in the bustling Causeway Bay neighbourhood. "I really dislike the fact that they occupied so many areas, all scattered around the city. I'm a Hong Konger, too. The occupiers don't represent all of us."

Yesterday Leung offered to hold talks with student leaders. Protest movement Occupy Central replied saying it hoped negotiations could "provide a turning point in the current political stalemate".