Hong Kong protests: Fresh scuffles near government offices

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Media captionPolice in Hong Kong responded violently on Wednesday to continuing pro-democracy protests, as John Sudworth reports

Police and protesters in Hong Kong have scuffled for a second night as a group of demonstrators tried to re-occupy a main road near government buildings.

Police used pepper spray to try and clear the area and arrested two people they said were obstructing officers.

The unrest comes after more serious clashes on Wednesday during which some police officers were filmed beating and kicking an unarmed protester.

Police are investigating the incident, which has sparked public outrage.

The US has called for a "swift, transparent, and complete investigation".

"We renew our call for the Hong Kong government to show restraint, and for protesters to continue to express their views peacefully," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

In a separate development, the BBC's English-language news website has been blocked in mainland China.

It was unclear whether the blackout was connected with the Hong Kong situation but the BBC said it appeared to be deliberate censorship.

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Media captionThe BBC's Celia Hatton demonstrates Chinese censorship of BBC World TV
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Image caption Many protesters were angry over a video showing police beating an unarmed protesters

The Hong Kong protesters are now in their third week of occupying key parts of the city in a bid to pressure authorities to implement reforms in the territory. They are demanding fully free elections in a vote for the territory's leader in 2017.

China, which has control over Hong Kong, says residents can vote - but it will vet which candidates are eligible to stand.

Thousands of people took to the streets at the beginning of the demonstrations but the numbers have dwindled in recent days.

'Inappropriate force'

Wednesday saw some of the worst clashes since the street demonstrations began in late September, as protesters resisted police attempts to clear an underpass on Lung Wo Road near the government complex.

Later on Wednesday and early on Thursday, hundreds of people returned to the area. A small group attempted to re-block the road.

Police said in a statement that a large crowd attempted to obstruct and surround them as they were making an arrest for disorderly conduct. The statement said protesters had attempted to charge the police, so pepper spray was used to disperse them.

One student protestor told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post that no warning was given and that he was not expecting police to use pepper spray.

Image caption Ken Tsang's lawyer says the beatings continued even after he was in police custody

Many of the protesters said they had returned to the area because of the footage aired on local TV on Wednesday showing a group of plainclothes policeman dragging a handcuffed and unarmed protester and throwing him to the ground.

The man, named as social worker and member of the opposition Civic Party Ken Tsang, was assaulted for several minutes.

He was later taken to hospital. Mr Tsang's lawyer, Dennis Kwok, told the BBC his client had serious injuries and that the beatings had continued while he was in custody.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said there was "concern" over a video clip "showing police officers who used inappropriate force against an arrested person".

He said the officers seen on the video would be removed from their current duties and an investigation would be carried out.

Occupy Central and the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the two main groups behind the protests, have condemned the violence.

Hong Kong democracy timeline

  • 1997: UK gives Hong Kong back to China under a 1984 agreement giving it "a high degree of autonomy" for 50 years
  • 2004: China says it must approve any changes to Hong Kong's election laws
  • June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform; both sides hold large rallies
  • 31 August 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017 but will pre-approve candidates
  • 22 September 2014: Student groups launch a week-long boycott of classes
  • 28 September 2014: Occupy Central and student protests join forces and take over central Hong Kong
  • 2017: Direct elections for chief executive due to take place

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