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Lawmakers of both parties slam Texas GOP candidate who called for ban on Chinese students

Shelley Luther, who’s running to represent state House District 62, tweeted that Chinese students should be banned from “attending all Texas universities.”
Image: Shelley Luther
Shelley Luther speaks to a crowd of supporters at an "Open Texas" rally against Covid-19 restrictions outside City Hall in Frisco, Texas, on April 25, 2020. Jeremy Lock / Reuters file

Texas lawmakers of both parties are condemning a Republican House candidate, who suggested the state should refuse Chinese students admission to its public universities. 

State legislators accused Shelley Luther, a Dallas salon owner who’s running to represent state House District 62, for perpetuating anti-Asian sentiment after she tweeted last week that Chinese students should be banned from “attending all Texas universities” and called for “No more Communists!” 

While the tweet has since been deleted, Luther doubled down on the sentiment with two other separate posts, saying that taxpayers “should not be subsidizing the next generation of CCP leaders,” and that it’s “common sense” that “CCP members should not have access to our schools,” in reference to the Chinese Communist Party. 

She did not return NBC News’ request for comment. 

State Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat whose parents came to the United States as Chinese students, released a statement Friday, demanding an apology from Luther. He wrote that Asian Americans have called for officials to stop “stoking the flames” of anti-Asian hate for the past two years during the pandemic. 

“We have asked that leaders be mindful of rhetoric and statements that would unfairly target Asians or spread racist stereotypes,” Wu, who represents the 137th district, wrote. “Luther’s statements are ignorant, hateful, and incite violence against not only Chinese Americans, but all Asian Americans.” 

Wu also explained that many Chinese students, like his parents, choose to remain in the U.S. and use their education and talents here, rather than returning to their home countries. 

“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 extreme nature, it is also the type of rhetoric that drives anti-Asian hate crimes,” he said in a statement. 

Luther followed up with a tweet, calling Wu a “socialist Democrat who doesn’t show up to work,” and an “enemy of the people,” and claimed that Texas Republicans agree with her stance on Chinese students. However Jacey Jetton, a Republican state representative, shut her down, calling on others in the GOP to stand against a ban. 

“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, an Asian American himself, wrote. 

He added that Luther does not “speak for Republicans or Texans like me.” 

“I hope the people of HD 62 use their votes to show they don’t agree with your brand of fear-based pandering either,” Jetton wrote. 

In spite of ongoing calls for solidarity against anti-Asian hate, Luther’s support for a discriminatory ban isn’t uncommon. A Pew Research Center poll found 55 percent of respondents say they support limiting the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. 

An August report released by Stop AAPI Hate, a hate incident reporting forum, showed that anti-Chinese views were commonly reflected in bias incidents. In more than 48 percent of all hate incidents collected from March 19, 2020, to June 30, 2021, anti-China and/or anti-immigrant rhetoric was included in at least one hateful statement. 

Citing the highly supported “anti-China bill,” which pours investment into scientific research and technological innovation in an effort to dominate the race in tech advancements, Stop AAPI Hate co-founder Russell Jeung previously said that there continues to be “political rhetoric and policies that are strongly anti-China.”

Wu, who tweeted a thread Monday, featuring the achievements of Chinese Americans from renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to Olympian Michelle Kwan, encouraged people to embrace immigrants and the exchange of American scholarship. 

“America is a better place because young people can come here and study,” he said. “The entire world is better when America educates their young.”