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Tension is growing at the Hong Kong government office in the Central district, with reports of protesters scuffling with police who are stockpiling riot gear.
Students have massed outside the office demanding that Chief Executive CY Leung resign by midnight.
They say they will occupy government buildings if he does not comply.
Protesters are angry at China's plan to vet candidates for polls in 2017, saying they want full democracy.
BBC reporter who was at the scene, Juliana Liu, says warning from police and government officials in Hong Kong against continuing the protests have not succeeded and that a steady stream of demonstrators wearing yellow ribbons have been arriving at the main demonstration site, although overall numbers appear to have fallen since earlier in the week. The organisers have said it was due to exhaustion, as the protest completes its fifth day.
Tension, though, was growing as crowds moved away from Connaught Road to an area outside the chief executive's office.
Demonstrators debated how much force the officers might use against young student activists who had threatened to occupy government buildings.
With a deadline of midnight for the chief executive to resign, the crowds are likely to swell as demonstrators wait to see if student leaders carry out their promise to escalate their civil disobedience campaign.
The main protest sites at Central, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Canton Road have remained peaceful.
But police and government have reiterated their call for protesters to disperse, and the police have warned they will not stand by if protesters breach the government office compound near Tamar Park.
Earlier on Thursday, police spokesman Steve Hui told reporters that if protesters surrounded and occupied Mr Leung's office, this would cause public safety problems.
"The police will not stand by and watch. We will decisively uphold the law," he said.
When asked if tear gas would be used, Mr Hui said the police would monitor the situation and would use "appropriate force if necessary".
The Hong Kong government said in a separate statement that the protesters were conducting a "siege" and, if it continued, government and police operations would "be seriously affected".
"This will eventually affect social order and the provision of government services to the public and society," it said, adding that 3,000 government officials were due to return to work on Friday.
Hong Kong democracy timeline
• 1997: UK gives Hong Kong back to China under a 1984 agreement giving it "a high degree of autonomy" for 50 years
• 2004: China says it must approve any changes to Hong Kong's election laws
• June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform; both sides hold large rallies
• 31 August 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017 but will pre-approve candidates
• 22 September 2014: Student groups launch a week-long boycott of classes
• 28 September 2014: Occupy Central and student protests join forces and take over central Hong Kong
• 2017: Direct elections for chief executive due to take place
• 2047: Expiry of current agreements
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