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Hong Kong Police Pepper-Spray Elderly Protester In The Eyes In Disturbing Video

01/10/2014 14:50 BST | Updated 01/10/2014 16:59 BST

A shocking video has emerged of police violently handling the protests in Hong Kong at the weekend.

Disturbing footage, taken on Sunday by South China Morning Post reporter James Griffiths, shows an elderly man standing in front of a barricade.

Without appearing to be provoked, a police officer can then be seen tugging the man's shoulder before yanking him closer to unleash a can of pepper spray directly in his face.

Although the city is now calmer, with police passively watching as protesters continue to rally in Hong Kong's streets, police fired tear gas and pepper spray on the weekend in an attempt to disperse the protesters - but the demonstrations only spread.

Today, thousands have joined pro-democracy protests on China's 65th National Day to press demands for genuine democratic reforms in the stiffest challenge to Beijing's authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

In August, Beijing rejected a proposal for open nominations of candidates for Hong Kong's first-ever leadership election, promised for 2017. Instead, all candidates must continue to be picked by a panel that is mostly aligned with Beijing.

In response, tens of thousands of people have taken to Hong Kong's streets since late last week to demand reforms that are in line with "one country, two systems," the arrangement negotiated for the return of the city from British to Chinese rule.

Student leaders of the protests warned Wednesday that if the territory's leader doesn't resign by the end of Thursday they will step up their actions, including occupying several important government buildings.

By raising the stakes in the standoff, the protest leaders are risking another round of confrontation with the police who are unlikely to allow government buildings to be stormed. It also puts pressure on the Chinese government, which has so far remained mostly silent and preferred to let Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying deal with the crisis.

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So far, China's government has only condemned the protests as illegal. President Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against any perceived threat to the Communist Party's hold on power, vowed in a National Day speech to "steadfastly safeguard" Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

But the growing protests have attracted worldwide attention, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying he planned to summon the Chinese ambassador to discuss the dispute, saying it is essential that Hong Kong's people have a genuine right to choose their top leader.

"It is not for us to involve ourselves in every dot and comma of what the Chinese set out," Cameron said in England. But he added: "I think it is a critical question. Real universal suffrage doesn't just mean the act of voting; it means a proper choice."