New scuffles broke out Friday night between Hong Kong riot police and pro-democracy activists in a district where police cleared protesters earlier in the day.

Police used pepper spray and batons to fend off a large crowd of people who had gathered in Mong Kok, and several protesters were seen knocked to the ground or carried away by police.

One protester was seen bleeding from his forehead as he was carried to a police van, moments after he was forced to the ground by officers. The confrontations appeared to subside later, but a large number of police remained in a tense standoff with protesters.

The chaotic scenes unfolded hours after police had moved in to clear tents, canopies and barricades at Mong Kok, a smaller protest zone across Victoria Harbor from the main occupied area in the heart of the financial district.

The dawn operation -- the third in recent days by police to retake streets from protesters -- came after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying sought to defuse a bitter standoff with student-led democracy protesters on Thursday by reviving an offer of talks over democratic reforms in the city.

However, Leung warned that police wouldn't refrain from clearing protest sites while holding talks. The latest clashes were likely to make it harder to resolve the crisis with protesters, who were already angered by a video of a group of officers kicking a handcuffed activist.

The protests have disrupted traffic in key roads and streets in three business districts since Sept. 26. Protesters are pressing for a greater say in choosing the semiautonomous Chinese city's leader in an inaugural direct election, promised for 2017.

Students and activists oppose Beijing's ruling that a committee stacked with pro-Beijing elites should screen candidates in the election. That effectively means that Beijing can vet candidates before they go to a public vote.