Since Shang Shi moved to Gainesville in 2018 to study at UF, he has always felt welcomed, but now, he worries that might change with two proposed Florida bills.
“If [the two bills] passed, there will be another, and we won't have any opportunity to stop anymore,” Shi said. “This whole situation could change dramatically.”
Shi, a 26-year-old UF electrical engineering PhD student, protested Saturday out of concern about the future of Chinese residents’ futures in Florida.
Along with Shi, about 70 Gainesville residents gathered at Southwest 13th Street and University Avenue to protest the proposed Interest of Foreign Countries Senate and House Bills.
Protesters held signs that said “Equal Rights on Property” and “Politics Out of My House.”
The bills would restrict the ownership of property in Florida by some Chinese government agencies, private businesses and individuals. The bills target Florida residents born and raised in the People’s Republic of China who aren’t lawful, permanent residents.
The bills also target other “countries of concern,” including Venezuela and Russia.
Similar protests were held statewide in big cities such as Orlando, Miami and Tampa.
Chenglong Li, a UF medicinal chemistry professor, helped organize the protest to encourage Gainesville residents to help abolish the discriminatory bills, he said.
“This is really important for people, especially for the Chinese American community over here,” Li said.
The bills are discriminatory and unconstitutional because the state is supposed to protect equality no matter what people’s origins are, Li said.
Minmin Jin, a 46-year-old Gainesville resident, attended the protest to stand against the bills.
“If you make a law, you make it to either no one or everyone, no select countries,” Jin said. “It’s unfair.”
Yao Li, a 40-year-old Gainesville resident, believes the bills are unconstitutional and only fuel the hatred toward Asian Americans she has witnessed over the years, she said.
“We have seen this in the past few years,” Li said. “We have suffered enough; we want to stop this hatred.”
Xu Sun, a UF industrial and systems engineering professor, told the crowd the passage of this bill may fuel prejudice and hatred towards Asian people at large.
Sun referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as a time when similar attacks targeted Asian Americans, he said.
“Innocent individuals who looked just like us were verbally harassed, threatened or even physically assaulted in public places,” Sun said. “Likewise, the approval of this bill sends a harmful message that Asian people are not welcome.”
Contact Claire at cgrunewald@alligator. Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire.
Claire Grunewald is a third-year journalism major and a metro reporter for The Alligator. In addition to writing, she enjoys going to the beach and discovering new music.