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Two people in critical condition after weekend of clashes in Hong Kong

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Two people in critical condition after weekend of clashes in Hong Kong
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Two people are in a critical condition after a weekend of chaotic clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, the police force has said.

It comes after officers stormed several shopping malls packed with families and children on Sunday, following China's call for a "tougher" stance to end months of unrest that have roiled the Asian financial hub.

Protesters in the area had initially formed a peaceful human chain before facing off with police in skirmishes up and down escalators, and spraying graffiti on a restaurant.

A knife-wiedling man, who was beaten by protesters with sticks, slashed several people and reportedly bit off part of the ear of a politician.

Police gave no details of the two left in critical condition.

On Saturday, protesters smashed up and torched the offices of news outlet Xinhua in some of the worse violence in weeks, before setting fire to metro stations and vandalising buildings, including an outlet of Starbucks.

Mainland businesses, including banks or companies seen as supportive of China's ruling Communist Party, have been targeted by protesters angered by China's perceived meddling with Hong Kong's freedoms since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China has denied this and accuses foreign countries of inciting the protests.

In a statement, police condemned the "rioters' violent and vandalistic acts" and vowed measures for public safety.

Tear gas accidentally aimed at a fireman on Saturday had been intended to disperse rioters, the police added.

"There was misunderstanding in the verbal communication between both sides," they said on Monday.

"The matter was tackled and resolved at the scene."

Further demonstrations are planned this week as protesters keep up pressure for demands such as an independent inquiry into police behaviour and the adoption of universal suffrage.

"Civil servants are ashamed of the crimes committed by the Hong Kong police force and the dictatorship of the Hong Kong government," said the Citizens' Press Conference, a pro-democracy group that plans a Monday night discussion on the clashes.

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