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Here's what you need to know about the protests that erupted in Hong Kong over the weekend.

What's going on?

Students, activists and labor unions in Hong Kong clashed with police over the weekend as they took to the streets to demand free and fair democratic elections, without restrictions from the Chinese government.


Why are people protesting?

The people of Hong Kong claim the Chinese government is limiting their democratic rights by imposing restrictions on candidates who can run in the 2017 elections for chief executive. The protests started with a peaceful sit-in, which turned heated after police used pepper spray and tear gas to try to break up the demonstration before the workweek started.


What prompted this?

Back in 1997, when the British handed Hong Kong over to China, the Chinese promised that the former British colony would be allowed to elect their own chief executive in 2017. But China is now being accused of reneging on that promise by creating a special committee to approve all the candidates running for chief executive.


Last week, students organized marches against what they view as encroachment by China. The marches were peaceful, but on Friday a group called Occupy Central escalated the demonstrations by descending on Hong Kong's government headquarters. Police reacted swiftly.

The police's attempt to squelch the protest only fanned it. More protesters, angered by images of  police repression, joined the students and Occupy Central groups. Police responded by bringing out guns (reportedly full of rubber bullets) and tear gas.


What do Hong Kong's residents think about all of this?

A recent poll showed that about half of Hong Kong's citizens think Beijing's plan for 2017 does not allow them enough freedom. Still, nearly 40 percent are okay with it. Residents in Hong Kong, particularly the older generations, seem reluctant to buck the status quo.


What's up with the umbrellas?

Demonstrators have begun using umbrellas to protect themselves against tear gas, leading some to call the protest the Umbrella Movement. Protesters have also adopted a yellow ribbon as their symbol.


What does China think about all this?

China wants the protests to end, and quickly. The Chinese government has said it supports the police action. China has also reportedly cracked down on social media use on the mainland, blocking words such as umbrella and phrases referring to Hong Kong police so that social media users can't see images of the protests.


Is there a clear outcome?

No. Recent polling shows the vast majority of Hong Kong residents — some 86 percent — believe the Occupy Central campaign has little or no chance of changing Beijing's policy. Yet the protests appear to be escalating and gaining traction, especially among young people.


Protesters are fighting for more than an autonomous election in 2017, they're fighting for freedom from what they see as oppression by China. Regardless of whether the protests spark real reform or dwindle away, the key issues — freedom and democracy — are unlikely to subside anytime soon.

For all of Fusion's coverage of Hong Kong's #OccupyCentral go to


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.