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Students cleared from government square in Hong Kong

Riot police in Hong Kong have cleared and arrested students who stormed a government headquarters in protest of China's refusal to allow genuine democratic elections in the semiautonomous region.

Hundreds of students continued to surround Hong Kong's government square on Saturday, chanting at police to stop arresting their colleagues, following a forced removal of students from the compound on Friday night.

News agencies differed on how many students had been arrested in the action, with figures ranging from six to 13.

The dispersal followed a

night of scuffles

between police and about 150 protesters who forced their way into the compound on Friday night. Police responded with pepper spray to push them back, but about 50 had remained inside the gated premises.

At least 29 people were injured in the unrest, police said.

Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok told reporters police "acted appropriately" and gave students sufficient warning before clearing the square.

'Turning point'

Friday's action was supposed to be the culmination of a

week of protests

that began on Monday when 13,000 students gathered on a campus in the north of Hong Kong, according to organizers.

"Our movement is peaceful and does not use aggression," said University of Hong Kong student union president Yvonne Leung. "Students who decided to storm the government complex knew about their legal responsibility."

Hong Kong Schülerstreik

Some 1,500 secondary school students skipped class on Friday to join the pro-democracy rallies

"This is an amazing turning point," Suki Wong, a recent graduate who works as an accountant, told the AFP news agency.

The protest came after China last month said the people of Hong Kong would be allowed to vote for their leader for the first time in 2017 - but that only candidates approved by a pro-Beijing committee could run.

A protest in July saw some 500,000 people take to the streets to express their discontent at what they see as China's increasingly tight grip on the city.

Since British colonial rule ended in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed under a "one country, two systems," arrangement, enjoying significant autonomy and freedoms unthinkable in mainland China.

But democracy activists say they

won't budge

on the right to choose the city's top post of Chief Executive in the 2017 election.

glb/se (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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