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Tensions rise in HK as government tells protesters to disperse

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[HONG KONG] Tensions rose in Hong Kong on Thursday as the government urged demonstrators to "disperse peacefully as soon as possible" after police were seen unloading boxes of rubber bullets.

The announcement followed confrontations between pro-democracy protesters and police outside the central government offices, with the government saying the protests were having "serious impacts" on the city.

"The government and the police appeal to those who are gathering outside the police headquarters, CGO (central government offices) and CEO (Chief Executive's office) not to block the access there and to disperse peacefully as soon as possible," the government said in a statement.

Protesters have been occupying several streets and intersections in the city for five days in a push for free elections of the city's leader and are calling for current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down.

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Police had earlier carried long wooden boxes and metal barrels into the legislative headquarters, as angry protesters tried to block their path.

Pictures shared widely on social media and television showed one barrel with the words "Round, 38mm rubber baton multi" written on it.

Another barrel had the words "1.5 in, CS" emblazoned on it, a possible reference to CS gas.

"If protesters surround government property... causing total blockage, seriously affecting public safety and public order... the police will not allow this violent act to happen," police spokesman Hui Chun-tak said.

Protest leaders encouraged more people to join the demonstration.

Andrew Shum, a member of protest group Occupy Central, told AFP: "I'm worried that the police will use force to disperse the movement tonight. Everyone is discussing what they are going to do next." - AFP