Hong Kong pro-democracy protests
Pro-democracy activist Wong Yeung-tat stands in front of a line of policemen on a blocked road at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong Bobby Yip/Reuters

Traffic is gradually returning to the streets of Hong Kong after police removed the barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters.

In a dawn operation, the police cleared one of the busiest streets in the global financial hub in Mong Kok.

The raid took place when most of the protesters were asleep in the congested Mong Kok district. There was little resistance from the pro-democracy campaigners.

The first few civilian vehicles were escorted by police motorbikes after tents and canopies were taken down.

About 800 police officers wearing riot helmets were involved in the operation to clear one of the largest protest areas.

"The Hong Kong government's despicable clearance here will cause another wave of citizen protests. We have urged protesters to maintain a kind of floating protest strategy to guard the streets," activist Wong Yeung-tat told Reuters.

Prior to the operation, the police had announced that only roads would be cleared but the protesters would technically be allowed to continue with their sit-ins. This is the third such dawn operation in recent days.

After the clearing operation, Senior Superintendent Catherine Kwan told a press conference: "We did not clear the area, because protesters still have ample space to express their views, and we set up a demonstration area on the pedestrian zone by Wai Fung Plaza on Argyle Street."

"The point of the operation was to remove the illegal obstacles blocking the road, and at the request of the protesters, we set up a spot for them."

"Most protesters were cooperative and left the area, so the operation went fairly smoothly."

The police moved in hours after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying offered to hold talks with student demonstrators to ease the political standoff, which has been gripping the semi-autonomous region for the past few weeks.