Michigan residents castigated Democratic state lawmakers at a public hearing on Thursday where public funding was later approved to facilitate the construction of a China-backed project.
At the Michigan State Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, lawmakers led by Democratic state Senator Sarah Anthony, chair of the committee, gave final approval to $175 million in funding by taxpayers for Gotion – a subsidiary of Gotion High-Tech, based in Hefei, China. build a electric vehicle (EV) battery factory in the Great Rapids. The measure passed by a close 10-9 vote, with every Republican committee and three Democrats voting against.
Funding was approved after a period during which members of the public were invited to comment on the project at the hearing. Almost every local who spoke criticized the proposal and expressed concern that a China-based company is developing a factory in their state.
“Why are we even considering – why would the county, the township, the state of Michigan even consider a China-based company if, in fact, there is an American company willing to build this type of plant,” Russ Jennings , a resident , said at the hearing.
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Big Rapids resident Marjorie Steele criticized the committee for rushing the funding vote and for scheduling the hearing with little notice.
“I’m angry. I’m angry that this vote was slipped off the agenda today with as little information as possible so people like me wouldn’t know it was happening,” Steele said. . “I am angry that you, our elected officials, have ignored calls from my community to cast this vote until a little semblance of due diligence can be performed.”
“I can promise you that we won’t stop at the local level,” she added. “We’re tired of being abused and we’re not alone. This isn’t just a Mecosta County problem. Townships and counties across the state are coming together, sharing resources, manpower grassroots work and activism. Your votes today, senators, are lines drawn in the sand.”
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Another resident, Cheryl Vitito, said the project would be part of the The Chinese government’s broader plan to “overthrow the United States without firing a shot”.
“I think any Chinese communist factory buying 700 acres of Michigan land is a concern for every citizen in the state,” she said. “This CCP-controlled company represents communism and poses a threat to our way of life and our divine and constitutional freedoms. We don’t want the CCP here through the Gotion factory because they have no respect for the value and dignity of human life.”
“This company pledges allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party and should be considered a threat to our national security,” added resident Shirley Schaefer.
In October, Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that Gotion would invest $2.4 billion to build two 550,000 square foot production plants and other support facilities covering 260 acres in Northern Michigan. She applauded the proposal, saying it would bolster Michigan’s status as a “global mobility and electrification hub.”
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However, Republican lawmakers and local leaders have scrutinized Gotion’s proposal, pointing to its Chinese ownership and ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The bylaws of Gotion High-Tech, whose California subsidiary Gotion proposed the Michigan plant, require the company to “conduct Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.”
“I am gravely disappointed that our representatives are responding to the demands of our Governor rather than the demands of our citizens. I can, however, attest that our community is now united in a way that it never would have been before. They do not don’t want that,” he added. Hannah Saez, Big Rapids Township Clerk, said during the hearing.
“Thousands of Michiganders will be watching today,” Saez continued. “I know you all get daily emails and phone calls. I know you are under pressure. I know you have probably been coerced. I plead with you to do what is right here even if corruption strikes at your door.”
Kyle Luce, the supervisor of Barton Township, a jurisdiction close to where the facility is proposed, said 85% of its residents surveyed were opposed to Gotion’s project.
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“Our citizens are concerned about the delay happening here,” Luce remarked. “The timing seems to be accelerated exponentially to, in our view, try to seal the deal and get it done before people have a chance to speak, residents have a chance to speak. And individuals , good senators, dig up daily information about the CCP’s involvement.”
“We are very concerned as a small municipality in central Michigan. We are primarily a farming community and we care about our environment,” he continued. “I’m here just to speak and ask you to dismiss this or file it until further investigation can be conducted.”