Taylor Swift certainly does not take a literal interpretation of her single, “You Need to Calm Down.” The singer went full out political during her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards for her “Pride Hymn” video.  She railed against the current lack of recognition for the LGBTQ Equality Act petition by President Trump’s administration.

A petition was posted for signing at the end of the video that now has half a million signatures, which is “five times what it takes to answer the White House,” Swift said. Then, she pointedly looked at her wrist as if to show that she was counting the time.  She closed by saying, “Several points have been highlighted in this video. If you vote for this video, it means you want a world where we all get equal treatment under the law.”

Swift was not always involved in politics. She was virtually silent on the presidential elections of 2016, but to paraphrase Bob Dylan, she was “younger then than now.”  Her new political activism begins as the nation prepares for the 2020 election.

Swift was not the only artist to become political at this year’s VMAs. Rapper French Montana and “GLOW” star Alison Brie spoke in favor of immigration when they presented the prize for the Best Latin American Music video. Montana, a Moroccan-born musician, was proud to present the prize as an immigrant.

Sean Spicer, President Trump’s first White House Press Secretary, will be on the 28th season of Dancing with the Stars.  The show typically includes celebrities from the worlds of sports, TV, movies and music, but has had other Republican contestants including Tim DeLay, former Texas Congressman in season 9, Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, former candidate for Vice President and Governor of Alaska in season 15 and Rick Perry, current Secretary of the Energy in season 23.  No Democrats. Many frustrated opponents of Donald Trump have taken to Twitter to protest the decision and to declare their intention to boycott the show.  Dancing’s host, Tom Bergeron, has expressed his frustration with having Spicer on the show through a twitter post where he said he was hoping to keep politics out of the show in order to avoid division and controversy. Bergeron also joked about Spicer’s exaggeration of Trump’s inauguration crowd on Good Morning America when he sarcastically said “The nice thing is Sean will be in charge of assessing audience size.” Many other people on the show’s staff feel angered by the decision to include Spicer because they felt attacked by him during his time as Press Secretary. With an administration as controversial as Trump’s, there’s no telling who might be angered by including a member or former member of his administration. For his part, Spicer thinks the show this season will set an example for how Americans can disagree over politics while still getting along.

Recent protests in Hong Kong occurred over a bill which would allow Hong Kong residents to be brought to court in mainland China for actions done in Hong Kong. More specifically, protesters in Hong Kong are concerned that freedom of expression is under attack because of fears that Hong Kong critics of China’s government might be extradited to the People’s Republic of China. These happenings come as part of a history of power struggles between China and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a former British colony which was only recently given back to China in 1997. Hong Kong first became a British colony in 1842 after the First Opium War. The war occurred as an attempt by China to suppress an illegal British drug trade of Opium into China; the British won the war which lead to the Treaty of Nanjing. This treaty gave Hong Kong to British control. It was one of several unequal treaties between China and imperialist powers. China has in recent history sought to regain its strength on the global stage. The agreement in which Hong Kong was returned to China was described as creating “one country, two systems.” This recent bill is looking like a threat to the “two systems” part of the slogan. Perhaps this is a way for China to assert itself against Western power.

            Hong Kong served as a refuge for mainland Chinese people during the invasion of China by the Japanese Empire during the Sino-Japanese war starting in 1937. Eventually the Japanese took over Hong Kong as part of the war, yet the British regained control after WW2. In 1984 Britain and China signed an agreement about Hong Kong, promising it will be returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the conditions that Hong Kong would keep its capitalist system and its partially democratic political system. Concerns now exist that this agreement seems to be under attack. If Hong Kong critics of the government in Beijing end up punished in mainland China for expressing their perspective, little hope is left for the “two systems” agreement.

            Hong Kong is generally acknowledged as having high levels of free speech and civil liberties. Freedom House, a non-profit research group which studies political freedoms and human rights, provides yearly rankings of freedom in countries around the world. In 2019, Freedom House gave a “partly free” ranking to Hong Kong, while also giving a “not free” ranking to China. This would suggest that China exerting greater power over Hong Kong probably won’t be good for Hong Kong’s freedom.

            On June 9th, more than a million people marched against the new bill. Three days after the protests began police shot rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons into a crowd outside a government complex. Journalists have been challenging government claims that the police didn’t use excessive amounts of force. A New York Times article “Hong Kong Protest Live Updates: Police Violence Puts Government on Defensive,” has reported that the Hong Kong police arrested a man who organized thousands of protestors using a smart-phone app. Hong Kong’s police commissioner has said that Hong Kong will not seek the assistance of the People’s Liberation Army. The commissioner added that 22 police officers were injured from the conflict. The English language China Daily publication, which is a media source owned by the Chinese communist party, has implied that the opposition to the new amendment is rooted in “foreign masters” who are opposing it at the expense of the city of Hong Kong. Another publication owned by the Chinese government, The Global Times, has described the opposition as “radical opposition forces” who are allegedly supported by “the Western forces behind them.”

            United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed concern over the bill saying that the freedoms given to Hong Kong in the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration must be respected. She mentioned that many British citizens currently reside in Hong Kong. In the 19th century, Great Britain was more powerful than China, today this is clearly not the case. It’s unclear if Britain or the West in general can make much of a difference regarding what happens to Hong Kong. It remains to be seen if Hong Kong will find a way to defend its liberty against increasing control from the mainland.


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