A Texas Republican candidate for the House of Representatives has ignited controversy after calling for a ban on Chinese students from universities in the state.
“Chinese students should be BANNED from attending all Texas universities,” Shelley Luther originally wrote in a since-revised tweet. “No more communists!”
In subsequent tweets, Luther went on to say the state’s taxpayers “should not be subsidizing the next generation of CCP [Chinese Communist Party] leaders” and that it is “common sense” that CCP members “should not have access to our schools.”
Luther, a hairdresser, made headlines in 2020 when she refused to close her Dallas salon amid emergency orders, according to the Texas Tribune. She ended up spending two nights in jail.
On Jan. 7, Rep. Gene Wu, a Chinese American Democrat from Houston, called Luther’s tweet “racist” and demanded a public apology.
“Luther’s statements are ignorant, hateful, and incite violence against not only Chinese Americans, but all Asian Americans,” Wu said, citing the spike in anti-Asian incidents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To casually conflate all Chinese students in America with actual registered members of the ruling party in the People’s Republic of China is not only ignorance of an extreme nature, it is also the type of rhetoric that drives anti-Asian hate crimes.”
In response to Wu’s statement, Luther posted tweets accusing him of “simping for the CCP” and calling him an “enemy of the people.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that a socialist Democrat who doesn’t show up to work thinks the position that Communist Chinese citizens should not access taxpayer funded state institutions is racist. Texas Republicans agree with me on this,” Luther wrote.
One Texas House Republican appeared to oppose Luther’s claim. Rep. Jacey Jetton, who is Asian American, tweeted that their party “should stand against cancelling Chinese students on college campuses.”
“To do otherwise is an attempt to score cheap political points by targeting Chinese people, but real leaders know there is a huge distinction between Chinese individuals and the Chinese government,” Jetton wrote.
Luther vehemently denied that she was being racist.
“As far as anyone thinking that I’m racist, I’m a Spanish teacher of 13 years and in my salon when I opened it, I was the sole white person that worked in there out of 19,” she said, according to the Tribune News Service. “So, me being called a racist is ridiculous… I do not agree with communist thinking, and I do not want our state to be run, or I do not want our state to be influenced by any communism.”
Luther, however, has previously engaged in other forms of anti-China rhetoric, referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus” on Sunday.
Luther’s remarks have already caught the attention of Chinese state media. On Sunday, Global Times published an op-ed claiming that they were “clearly more ideological.”
“Luther’s rhetoric was made to confuse the public and further sow seeds of hatred for Chinese students and Chinese Americans among voters in Texas,” Global Times noted.