The Chinese government is, domestically, an enemy of freedom – this much is obvious. But that doesn’t make every enemy of an enemy a friend. Recently many libertarians have written and posted online in support of the ongoing Hong Kong democracy protests. Perhaps it’s the obvious parallel with the unsuccessful Tiananmen Square democracy protests (which were undoubtedly a pro-liberty movement) that have brought out support for these protests.

The Hong Kong protests have an entirely different substance though – because Hong Kong is already an incredibly free place, and has been so, without democracy, for decades. With the rule of law, including British individual legal protections, comparatively low taxes, a free business and trade environment and many social freedoms, Hong Kong is freer than most Western democracies.

And isn’t that a little telling? Because it’s via democracy that socialist policies gained a real foothold in developed countries in the 20th Century. Perhaps surprisingly, the anti-democratic Hong Kong has enjoyed laissez-faire laws – because these deliver the economic goods for the dictators in Beijing.

In this context, a democracy movement is a highly credible threat to liberty. Democracy is not a panacea and it is no guarantee of liberty. Which is not to say that dictatorship is a preferred method of government in general. But when the rebellion is merely in the name of “democracy”, then libertarians should be sceptical. Ultimately this movement does not seek to undermine political authority, but to move where it is exercised. Localised political hegemony will increase the chance of demagoguery and legal vote-buying through subsidies, welfare and government provided services. The democratic political process has created an ever growing state everywhere it has been implemented in the modern era. The time to rebel is when Beijing takes away actual freedoms, not when it withholds the right to vote.