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Images of Hong Kong's democracy movement

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A civil disobedience movement that started in Hong Kong earlier this year has intensified in the worst outbreak of political unrest the city has seen in two decades.

The pro-democracy rallies gained momentum on October 1 as China's week-long national day holiday kicked off. Fears were high that police would use force to prevent disruption o national day celebrations in a repeat of recent violence but so far, the atmosphere was peaceful.

Riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons on thousands of political activists, professionals and students on September 28. The level of violence drew comparisons with the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, leading countries including Australia and Italy to issue travel warnings. Meanwhile, the financial industry is concerned that Hong Kong's reputation as a global financial hub could be damaged.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged citizens not to take part in the "illegal" protests, while authorities in Beijing said they are confident the Hong Kong government can handle the situation.

Demonstrators are protesting Beijing's conservative framework for political reform. Tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong worsened in June after China's Cabinet issued a policy document affirming that only candidates pre-approved by Beijing could be put on the ballot for Hong Kong's 2017 elections.

Here's a look at the most compelling images from the protests.

-Updated on October 1, 2014.

AARON TAM | AFP | Getty Images