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Hong Kong protests: ‘Critical moment’ after new clashes

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Hong Kong (Oct 19, 2014): Pro-democracy protesters on Sunday accused police of using excessive force against them after violent clashes in Hong Kong, as a senior politician said weeks of rallies have reached a 'critical moment'.

Police blamed radical activists for stirring up trouble after dozens of officers in riot gear pushed into a crowd of angry demonstrators in the Mongkok district early Sunday, striking at them repeatedly with batons.

Twenty people were injured in a fourth night of clashes between protesters demanding free elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, and police trying to restore traffic to the major Mongkok thoroughfare which they have brought to a standstill.

The spike in violence comes after three weeks of largely peaceful pro-democracy rallies and road blockades that have paralysed key parts of the Asian financial hub.

At a press conference at the Mongkok camp on Sunday, organisers blasted police for a response that left some demonstrators with head wounds, fractures and bruising, with others carried away on stretchers. But police insisted they had used appropriate force against protesters who attempted to charge their cordon lines, pushing back with the umbrellas that have come to symbolise Hong Kong’s democracy movement.