Walter Block: Hong Kong Deserves Full Freedom from Communist China


Free association is one of the basic bedrocks of the civilized order.

No one should be compelled to associate with anyone else against his will. The problem with slavery was that the slave was forced to associate with his master.

He would have vastly preferred to have no relationship with the latter at all, or, if he found himself in that position, to quit immediately. Ditto for rape. This egregious act, too, violates freedom of association. The victim wants nothing to do with her rapist. He compels her to engage with him.

If the people of Quebec no longer wish to be politically linked to Canada, they should be allowed to sever relations. To the credit of the nation to the north of us, their policy is to acquiesce in the departure of this province upon a majority vote to do so.

Not in Spain. That government has arrested Catalan independence leaders and initiated violence against those who protested this rights violation. It comes with particular ill-grace for any American to oppose the cry of “let my people go” since the 13 colonies that became our country seceded from their lawful sovereign in 1776.

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What about the protests that have taken place in Hong Kong? A similar analysis applies there, too.

The Hong Kongers’ demands were simply for a smidgen more of democracy and local control. The protests first started in opposition to the Chinese government’s demand to transfer to mainland jurisdiction Hong Kongers accused of crimes.

But if the protesters had their ‘druthers, it is more than likely that they would want to break free, entirely, from the mother nation. They would want to secede, as Taiwan in effect has done. According to the doctrine of free association, they should be allowed to do exactly that, and peacefully, too.

Are we willing to apply this to ourselves? If we are civilized, and not hypocritical, we should do so. If California wants to secede, we should wish them well and allow them to depart.

Do you think Hong Kong should be allowed to completely break from communist China?

If Californians want to link up with Oregon and Washington state to form a new country, Cascadia, the same analysis applies. And if this new country wants to amalgamate with New England, ditto. Nations need not be contiguous. Were the two-state solution to be implemented in Israel, the same would apply, with Gaza and the West Bank forming one country.

There are two objections that may be leveled against the foregoing.

First, the young Hong Kong protesters are employing violence. But that is not an entirely accurate way of putting the matter. It takes two to tango. If the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China had agreed to the protesters’ initial demands, as they should have (in not doing so, they violated their agreement with the United Kingdom regarding “one country, two systems”), there would not have been any physical altercation.

Members of the original thirteen colonies also “employed violence” at the founding of our own nation. Violence is not always to be rejected. Only the initiatory variety is to be opposed. Based on the law of freedom of association, the U.S. colonists then and the Hong Kong protestors now (assuming they would want secession) were and are only “guilty” of defensive, not offensive, violence.

The other objection concerns minority rights. Suppose only nine tenths of the Hong Kong people voted for secession. Should the other 10 percent be forced to join this new entity, kicking and screaming? No. They should be allowed to secede from the Hong Kong nation, and decide their future for themselves.

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Perhaps, they might re-amalgamate with China, or go their own way as a separate country. Would there be enough people to form an independent nation? One only need mention Liechtenstein or Monaco to put that objection to rest.

Is it likely that Hong Kong (or the Uyghurs) would be able to successfully secede? Las Vegas would not place too high a probability on either possibility. Some secession movements succeed (the U.S., Taiwan) some will likely fail (Catalonia, Hong Kong).

But that is another matter. We are talking justice here, not realpolitik. And as far as pure elemental justice is concerned, the Uyghurs would be justified in seceding, as would the people in Hong Kong, and Taiwan would stay free of the Middle Kingdom.

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Walter E. Block is the Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at the College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.
Walter E. Block is the Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at the College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.

He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas.

He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, two dozen books and thousands of Op-Eds for publications including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows.

He was the the 2011 Schlarbaum Laureate at the Mises Institute and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008), the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the Dux Academicus Award, Loyola University, 2007.

Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shaken his hand. He has never washed that hand since.