Amid some of the worst clashes since Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests began in September, thousands of demonstrators temporarily forced the closure of government headquarters.
Police armed with batons and pepper spray pushed back activists as they tried to surround administrative offices in the Chinese-controlled city. More than 40 people were arrested and several police and protesters were injured.
The latest flare-up marked an escalation in the civil disobedience campaign.
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.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said police had been very tolerant but would now take “resolute action.”
“Some people have mistaken the police’s tolerance for weakness,” he told reporters.
Protesters stormed a shopping centre, demanding free elections for the city’s next leader in 2017 rather than the vote between pre-screened candidates that Beijing has said it will allow.
China has also told a group of MPs from the UK wishing to visit Hong Kong that they will be refused entry to Britain’s former colony.