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Bills aim to ban China from buying farmland in US

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-04-19 10:12


The Senate of the US state of Florida has unanimously passed a bill that bans seven countries, including China, from purchasing farmland in the state.

If signed by the governor, the bill, SB 264, specifically will prohibit the Chinese government, entities, companies and citizens residing in China from buying farmland or other real property in Florida. It also will require buyers to provide an affidavit that they are not an agent of a Chinese entity or a citizen living in China at the time of purchase.

Violators, including sellers, agents and buyers, will be subject to felony charges and punishment, and property bought under violation will be forfeited by the state, the bill says.

"If this bill becomes law, every time sellers see a Chinese face or surname, they will ask for ID documentation," said a Chinese American surnamed Liao. "A seller, in order to avoid the risk of possible punishment, may refuse to deal with a Chinese-looking buyer entirely."

According to media outlet FiveThirtyEight, 14 US states have enacted similar restrictions and a dozen more are considering similar bans.

New York Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat, has proposed a bill to ban China, Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Russia, Venezuela and any other country or individual deemed by the secretary of commerce to have engaged in conduct adverse to US national security from purchasing agricultural land in the state.

Similar bills are also being proposed in the US Congress.

In the Senate, a bipartisan bill sponsored by senators Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, and Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, aims to prevent China, the DPRK, Iran and Russia from investing in, purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring US farmland.

A group of senators, led by Mike Braun from Indiana, has introduced a piece of legislation to prevent people associated with US' foreign "adversaries" — referring to China, the DPRK, Iran and Russia — from buying agricultural land in the US.

Another US Senate bill, proposed by Tom Cotton from Arkansas, goes one step further and aims to prohibit citizens, companies and other entities from China — or any foreign person or entity acting on behalf of them — from buying any public or private real estate in the US.

In the House, Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington state has introduced a bill to prohibit Chinese citizens from buying any agricultural land in the US.

However, data from the Farm Service Agency of the US Department of Agriculture shows that Chinese entities owned less than 1 percent of the approximately 16 million hectares of US agricultural land owned by foreign countries through the end of 2021.

Chinese entities held 155,439 hectares in the US, and about half of that was acquired in 2013, when a Chinese company bought pork producer Smithfield Foods. In total, foreign countries owned 3.1 percent of all privately held agricultural land and 1.8 percent of all land in the US.

The bills singling out China and a few other countries have caused great concern about civil rights in the Chinese American community.

"The evil land laws that exclude Chinese people have appeared one after another in various places, and we are now at a critical historical moment for Chinese Americans to defend their rights," said Xue Haipei, president of United Chinese Americans, in the group's latest newsletter.

Xue said: "The reason why the United States is the United States is its founding spirit of equality, freedom and openness that it advocates. This spirit is not only reflected in the treatment of its own nationals, but also applies to any member of human society in spirit and practice.

"Let me ask, why does the US government have to single out the people of any country to discriminate (against)?"

In Texas, where such bills were first proposed at the state level, none has been put to a vote yet. The bills have drawn many Chinese Americans to the state chamber for the first time to voice their concerns at various hearings.

Civil rights protests are being planned for Saturday across Texas — in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Plano and San Antonio.

"Our communities have fought, bled and sometimes died fighting for our civil rights over the past century," said Texas state Representative Gene Wu, who has been at the forefront of the fight against these bills. "It has only been recently that our communities have had a seat at the table. Now, there are dozens of pieces of legislation to roll back the rights that we have earned."

Calling for the community to join the weekend rallies, Wu said, "They are telling us we are no longer welcome at the table, and that we should go back to begging for scraps. We refuse."

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