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Texas Democrats Decry GOP Bill to Ban Chinese Citizens From Buying Property in the State

  • Asia

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference in Houston on Sept. 13, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Texas state Rep. Gene Wu, along with more than a dozen fellow Democratic lawmakers, has decried state legislation proposed by a GOP lawmaker that would ban the sale of land to Chinese citizens, governments, and other entities.

“I am here in defense of the ‘American dream’,” Wu told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday at the Texas Capitol. “This is what we are all here to protect.”

The China-born Houston Democrat held a photo of the Houston home where he grew up, adding that he would not be here if SB 147 were law. His family immigrated to the United States in the 1980s.

“Just as I have told my own community, the Asian community, we need to be supportive of other groups because one day they will come for you,” Wu said. “And here we are.”

Democrat state Rep. Salman Bhojani, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when he was 19, called the legislation “troubling.”

“What starts in Texas changes the world,” he said. “Where our legislature goes, the entire country follows, which is why this legislation is so troubling.”

Wu held a similar press conference on Monday in Houston, drawing about 100 Chinese protestors to the steps of City Hall, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“SB 147 = ASIAN HATE,” read one of the signs carried by an attendee.

“Say No to Discriminations,” another sign read.

About SB 147

In November, Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst pre-filed SB 147, which would ban citizens, governments, and entities from China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia from buying real property in the state of Texas.

“The growing ownership of Texas land by some foreign entities is highly disturbing and raised red flags for many Texans,” Kolkhorst said in a press release in December.

Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott signaled his support for the legislation if it passes.

“A bill is filed in Texas legislature to ban citizens, governments & entities of China, Iran, North Korea & Russia from purchasing land in Texas,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “I will sign it. This follows a law I signed banning those countries from threatening our infrastructure.”

During a separate press conference on Wednesday, Abbott reiterated that the bill is written to protect Texas from hostile governments.

“And we have a goal here, and that’s to prevent countries that are hostile to the interest of the United States from being able to buy up our farmland or other land that’s so important to us,” Abbott said, adding that SB 147 would not impact those “who are citizens or intend to be citizens of the United States.”

Currently, the bill does not include such language.

Building on Previous Legislation

Kolkhorst’s bill mirrors and builds on SB 2116, known as the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act, which the Republican governor signed into law during the 87th Legislative session in 2021. The law prohibits Texas businesses and government officials from making infrastructure deals with China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

The 2021 legislation, which passed unanimously, was filed in response to the purchase of roughly 140,000 acres near Laughlin Air Force base in Del Rio by Chinese billionaire Sun Guangxin. The Xinjang-based real estate tycoon spent an estimated $110 million to build a wind farm in Val Verde County, near the Texas-Mexico border. The law took effect immediately after it was signed on June 18, 2021.

Wu voted in favor of SB 2116.

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