Bill to ban Chinese citizens and government from buying Texas land gains steam among Republicans

AUSTIN, Texas (TEXAS TRIBUNE) – Gov. Greg Abbott he said this week that he will sign an agreement to ban citizens and foreign corporations from four countries, including China, from buying Texas land.

It was proposed in November by Sen. Republican Lois Kolkhorst’s Senate Bill 147 would bar citizens, governments and corporations from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from buying real estate here, which she and other Republicans say will help curb foreign influence. Texas.

The bill would also prohibit the purchase or confiscation of property by the “government” of the four states; is a company located in four countries; and is a company “controlled directly or indirectly” by the government of the four countries.

Critics say the bill — and the GOP’s heavy emphasis on threats from the Chinese government — is likely to fuel anti-Asian sentiment that has grown in recent years and will restrict immigrants, business owners and green card holders while doing little to address the problem. each one. national security concerns.

“If signed into law, this bill will create policies against Asian hate,” the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Friday. “It violates the rights of citizens of other countries regardless of their relationship with their governments, as well as Green Card holders and dual citizens.”

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Others have echoed this concern this week.

“The law doesn’t say, ‘war zone,'” said Rep. Gene Wu, whose Houston district has a large Chinese American population. “

Wu also feared that the Chinese government could retaliate for the ban and that it could make it difficult for US businesses of all sizes to do business with their Chinese counterparts or compete in the growing global market.

The decision follows a 2021 law that barred Texas businesses and state officials from complying with the four states’ demands. The order, passed unanimously, was passed in response to a Xinjiang tycoon’s purchase of nearly 140,000 acres of wind farm in Val Verde, a small border town near Laughlin Air Force Base.

Kolkhorst said his bill was also prompted by concerns about the “expanding ownership” of Texas land by foreign corporations.

“It’s time to deal with the states that are taking the land before it, not after they’ve already ruled the majority of Texas,” he said earlier this week. Late Friday afternoon, Kolkhorst said the order would “clarify that the restrictions do not apply to United States citizens and legal residents.”

He added that the law “doesn’t stop foreign businesses in Texas, because companies can still do business by renting real estate.”

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Kolkhorst’s decision comes amid rising investment and China-focused claims.

“Communist China, America’s greatest enemy, has fallen,” Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wrote in an op-ed last year calling for such a ban. “They are buying farms in the United States and Texas.”

But taken together, investors from these four countries own only a fraction of the land in Texas and the rest of the country: Chinese investors own about 383,000 acres of US land — about 600 square miles — which is less than 1% of the total. . of land owned by foreign countries, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2021 land report. Investors from Russia, Iran and North Korea all own less than 3,000 acres, according to the USDA.

Canadian investors account for about 31% of foreign farms in the United States – the largest share – followed by investors from the Netherlands at 12% and Italians at 7%.

In October, Republicans in the US House of Representatives called for an investigation into the country’s foreign investment. Former President Donald Trump, who is also running for the White House, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is considered the top GOP candidate if he runs, recently said they support such restrictions. And, citing the Chinese Community Party, US Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, proposed federal legislation this week that would also restrict Chinese businesses.

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Wu, a Houston lawmaker, said the bill is reminiscent of other anti-Chinese laws dating back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act – a 70-year ban on Chinese immigration that the United States did not apologize for until 2012. Why China is included in the bill – and why the country has become the capital of the Republican party’s messages – while many other countries escape scrutiny.

“We oppose communist countries, don’t we?” he asked. “Where is Cuba? Where is Venezuela? Where is Vietnam? You say we oppose countries that hate our country? Well, where is Saudi Arabia? Where is Afghanistan? Where are all these other places that have destroyed our country? It’s a really slippery slope.”

“The Asian population is the new scapegoat,” he added.

Description, Jan. 21, 2023: An earlier version of this story quoted Rep. Gene Wu in response to the bill on foreign ownership by asking, “Where is Saudi Arabia? Where is Pakistan?” Wu later said he had misspoken and meant to say Afghanistan, not Pakistan.

Copyright 2023 Texas Tribune. All rights reserved.


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