Shelley Luther, a Republican candidate for Texas House District 62, is drawing backlash for saying Chinese students should be prohibited from enrolling in Texas universities in a since-deleted tweet.
“Chinese students should be BANNED from attending all Texas universities,” Luther said in the now-deleted January 5 tweet. “No more Communists!”
Luther gained national attention as the owner of a Dallas hair salon, who in 2020 refused to shut down her business amid emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was sentenced to a week in jail for the violation but was released after just two days following a motion granted by the Texas Supreme Court.
Luther has doubled down on her take on Chinese students in subsequent tweets that have not been deleted, first saying that taxpayers “should not be subsidizing the next generation of CCP leaders.” CCP refers to the Chinese Communist Party.
She then added that it is “common sense” that “CCP members should not have access to our schools.”
It’s common sense: CCP members should not have access to our schools https://t.co/MbiFkbUUN8
— Shelley Luther (@ShelleyLuther) January 5, 2022
Luther’s comments received criticism from state representatives on both sides of the aisle. State Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), who is Chinese-American, released a statement condemning the remarks and asking for a public apology from Luther.
Here are my complete statements: pic.twitter.com/DgnAdGzRT9
— Gene Wu (@GeneforTexas) January 8, 2022
“Luther’s statements are ignorant, hateful, and incite violence against not only Chinese Americans, but all Asian Americans,” Wu said. “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.”
Luther responded to Wu’s comments on Twitter, criticizing the representative for being one of the Democrats who went to Washington D.C. to avoid voting on a Republican election bill.
“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,” Luther tweeted, “Texas Republicans agree with me on this. [Gene Wu] is 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. @GeneforTexas is an enemy of the people. pic.twitter.com/8Cn1thXgh2
— Shelley Luther (@ShelleyLuther) January 8, 2022
Most Republicans in the Texas House have not commented on Luther’s statements, but one that did was State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond), who is Asian-American. In a series of tweets, he responded directly to Luther, first saying that “Republicans should stand against canceling Chinese Students on college campuses.”
“To do otherwise is an attempt to score cheap political points by targeting Chinese people,” Jetton continued, “but real leaders know there is a huge distinction between Chinese individuals and the Chinese Government.”
Republicans 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. https://t.co/SoJtXsfENU
— Jacey Jetton (@JaceyJetton) January 10, 2022
“You certainly don’t speak for Republicans or Texans like me,” Jetton added. “I hope the people of HD 62 use their votes to show they don’t agree with your brand of fear-based pandering either.”
You certainly don’t 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.
— Jacey Jetton (@JaceyJetton) January 10, 2022
Luther is running against Rep. Reggie Smith (R-Sherman) in the March primary for H.D. 62. The district covers the North Texas counties of Delta, Fannin, and Grayson along the Oklahoma border. Smith and Luther are the only two candidates in the race with no Democratic challenger, meaning the primary winner will take the seat.
Luther has had a previous unsuccessful campaign for a Texas Congressional seat. After her rise in notoriety following her defiance of government lockdown orders, she entered the race for state Senate District 30. Luther came short of being elected, losing to then-State Rep. Drew Springer (R-Sherman) in a December 2020 runoff election by 13 percentage points.
According to the most recent FBI data for 2020, the number of hate crimes committed against Asian people went up by 73%, a significantly larger increase than all other hate crimes, which went up by 13%.
The Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate (SAH) organization’s data shows 10,370 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people were reported to them between March 19, 2020, and September 30 of the following year, 5,771 of which occurred in 2021.