Kris Connor/Getty Sery Kim
A Texas congressional candidate and former Trump administration staffer is facing criticism for racist remarks that she does not want Chinese immigrants coming to the U.S. "at all," blaming them for stealing intellectual property and spreading COVID-19.
"I don't want them here at all," Sery Kim said in a forum for candidates of Texas' 6th Congressional District held last week. "They steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don't hold themselves accountable."
Kim — a Republican who worked in the Small Business Administration under former President Donald Trump — followed her remark with, "And quite frankly, I can say that because I'm Korean."
"As the first Korean American Republican women to serve in Congress, we want to empower and lift up fellow members of the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community who want to serve their communities," California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel said in a statement. "We talked with Sery Kim yesterday about her hurtful and untrue comments about Chinese immigrants, and made clear that her comments were unacceptable."
The Dallas Fort Worth Asian-American Citizens Council also condemned Kim's remarks in a statement released Friday.
"Racist and ethnic slurs, regardless of the source, have no place in today's society," the statement read. "Ms. Kim being of Korean descent does not give her license to use harmful language against Chinese or any other ethnic group."
Sammy Yang, president of the group, added that Kim's comments "fuel the growing anti-Asian violence and further endanger Asian-Americans in our community. Her behavior is unacceptable and inexcusable."
Asked for a response to the backlash and pulled endorsements, Kim's office sent a two-page statement to PEOPLE in which she said she was "shocked" that she was being targeted by the "liberal" media and suggested she was only speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party.
"I am shocked that in an effort to counter Asian-American hate the liberal media is targeting me, an Asian and an immigrant in an effort to paint me anti-Asian and anti-immigrant just for speaking against the oppressive Chinese Communist Party," her statement read, adding: "It is indisputable that, even here in TX 06, the Chinese Communist Party is the foremost threat to the free world."
The statement further claimed that Kim has "received more death threats and racist comments in the past 48 hours than in my previous 42 years combined" and included a selection of racist messages the campaign said were sent via a submission form on Kim's website.
The statement echoed a tweet by Kim on Saturday in which she wrote that she was a "fighter" who "will not back down from speaking the truth."
A recent study of police department statistics found that hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020, despite hate crimes overall dropping by 7 pecent.
The report, issued by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found the first surge in violence against Asian American came last year, as COVID-19 cases started to spike in March and April.
Some observers have blamed Trump — who referred to COVID-19 as the "China virus" and "kung flu" — for fueling the racism.
Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the first Chinese-American woman to serve in Congress, told PEOPLE earlier that her initial reaction to Trump's use of derogatory and racist anti-Asian phrases was one of pain: "I felt like it was a stab wound each time he said it. I felt that he was attacking the entire community, but I felt it personally."