Fresh scuffles broke out between Hong Kong riot police and pro-democracy activists in a district where police had cleared protesters earlier in the day.

Police used pepper spray and batons to fend off a large crowd of people who had gathered in Mong Kok, and several protesters were seen knocked to the ground or carried away by police.

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Pro-democracy protesters scuffle with riot police on a blocked road at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong KongReuters
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Pro-democracy demonstrators face police during a stand-off in the Mong Kok district of Hong KongAFP
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Police use pepper spray on protesters during a confrontation at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong KongReuters

The chaotic scenes unfolded hours after police moved in to clear tents, canopies and barricades at the site, a smaller protest zone across Victoria Harbour from the main occupied area in the heart of the financial district.

Hundreds of Hong Kong police staged their biggest and boldest raid yet on a pro-democracy protest camp before dawn, charging down student-led activists who have held a key intersection in one of the main protest zones for more than three weeks.

The operation came while many protesters were asleep on the road in dozens of tents or beneath giant, blue-striped tarpaulin sheets.

The raid was a gamble for the 28,000-strong police force who have come under criticism for mounting aggressive clearance operations using tear gas, baton charges, and the violent beating of a handcuffed protester by seven policemen on Wednesday 15 October.

Storming into the intersection with helmets, plastic riot shields and batons at the ready, the deployment of 800 officers caught the protesters by surprise.

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Police advance on a protest site in Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong. Hundreds of police officers staged a dawn raid at one of the key sites occupied by pro-democracy protesters, removing barricades from roads and clearing out most of the demonstrators in Mongkok, across the harbour from the main demonstration zoneReuters
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Police dismantle structures erected by pro-democracy protesters around the bustling area of Mongkok, across the harbour from the main demonstration areaReuters
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Police officers clear away tents and debris after they launched a dawn raid to clear out the Mongkok protest siteGetty
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A police officer removes an umbrella that was part of a barricade. The protests in Hong Kong have become known as the Umbrella MovementReuters
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A pro-democracy protester shouts towards a line of police who forcibly cleared the the area they were occupyingAFP
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A pro-democracy activist runs away from police during the dawn raidGetty
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A policeman runs towards protesters who were attempting to regroup after being forcibly cleared from the Mongkok districtAFP
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Police restrain a colleague as he reacts to being shouted at by a member of the Occupy movementAFP
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Police stand next to what is left of the pro-democracy protest camp in the Mongkok district of Hong KongAFP
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A lorry collects tents left behind by pro-democracy protesters after police removed barricadesReuters
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A pro-democracy activist looks forlorn as he sits on a concrete road divider after the protest site was destroyed during a dawn raidGetty

Some protesters moved to a nearby park, but later came back. Police said they would allow protesters to continue to occupy a section of the busy Nathan Road.

"The occupation here hasn't finished yet," said Simon Siu, a protest logistics coordinator. "People will come back."

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People sit in the Occupy movement's new location on a blocked road in the Mongkok district of Hong KongAFP
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A pro-democracy protesters poses for a photo in the Mongkok district of Hong KongAFP
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A pro-democracy protester he lies on a blocked road in Mongkok shopping districtReuters
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Light falls on a member of the Occupy movement sleeping on a road in Hong KongAFP

At the protest's peak, 100,000 were on the streets, presenting Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges since it crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital in 1989. Those numbers have dwindled significantly but police action could reignite retaliation.