Social Navigation

Bill that sought to restrict Chinese ownership dies at Texas House


A controversial bill that initially sought to ban Chinese citizens from owning real estate in Texas will not move forward.

A watered-down version of the bill passed the Senate last month and passed the Texas House of Representatives, where it collapsed over the weekend. House Speaker Dade Phelan chose not to hold a weekend hearing, rendering SB 147 and several other Senate proposals dead upon arrival.

The bill, introduced in December by Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst, originally sought to ban real estate ownership by citizens of North Korea, Iran, Russia and China, with no exceptions for dual citizens or visa holders. He won the backing of Gov. Greg Abbot, who put the bill on the map, tweeting, “I’ll sign it.”

“The increasing ownership of Texas land by certain foreign entities is very concerning and raises red flags for many Texans,” Kolkhorst said in a statement at the time. “By comparison, as an American, go try buying land near a Chinese military base and see how it works out for you.”

The premise was enough to galvanize Asian Texans in unprecedented ways. They protested and walked across the state from Austin to Dallas, holding signs reading “Stop Asian Hate” and “Stop Chinese Exclusion”. Hundreds of people have taken their fears to the state Senate, using their testimony to implore lawmakers to kill the bill.

“There are people asking if they should go out of state, like right now,” Democratic state Rep. Gene Wu, who represents a heavily Chinese district, told NBC News in March. “I have never seen the Chinese community so active and motivated in my entire adult life. The community is on fire right now. They are furious.

In response to the outcry, Kolkhorst introduced a new version of SB 147 with no language preventing individuals from buying homes.

Kolkhorst did not respond to a request for comment.

Legislation that died in the House alongside SB 147 included a bill to ban “critical race theory” in universities and another to restrict drag queen story hours in libraries.

The state’s Asian activists say their fight is far from over and that ending this bill “does not undo the racist and xenophobic rhetoric spouted by elected officials,” said Lily Trieu, executive director by acting Asian Texans for Justice, to NBC News. “We will continue to fight discrimination and racism towards the Asian American community.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.