Opponents of the proposed Gotion Inc. electric-vehicle battery component plant in Mecosta County are stepping up efforts to force the company and its U.S. principles to register with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Specifically, questions persist as to why Gotion North American Vice President of Manufacturing Chuck Thelen hasn’t registered with FARA as he is the face and public voice for what Gotion has dubbed Project Elephant in Mecosta County’s Green Charter Township outside Big Rapids. Gotion has filed with FARA as has its Michigan-based legal firm Warner Norcross + Judd.

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“[W]hen I was testifying to the different Senate and and Congress committees I was asked to come into the Capitol and answer questions, which I did,” Thelen said in his “Chat with Chuck” video townhall last month. “I was accompanied by a couple of people and I was asked to come and meet with some different people just to answer their questions, because they didn’t know what the heck they were voting on, so I did that and because of that I was threatened by a certain group of a political party that if I didn’t register as a FARA agent that they’re gonna have me arrested,” he said.

“So I asked my law firm what does FARA mean, so that’s a foreign agent acting in the United States,” Thelen continued. “I’m not a foreign agent. I’m born in the United States, my parents were born in the States….  I’m not a foreign agent. I’m not promoting anything foreign. I am running a North American company, I’m not running anything else so I refused to sign this FARA agent because it’s not true. I’m not a FARA agent.”

Thelen did, however, register as a lobbyist, while Gotion Inc. and Warner Norcross + Judd did file FARA registrations.

“The FARA submission was done by a law firm not on our behalf, okay, that was their own doing,” Thelen said. “That’s what they felt as though they needed to do. That’s their business decision. I’ll never question somebody else’s other business decision. We made the decision not to do it because it wasn’t true.”

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Two individuals in particular seeking Thelen’s registration are former U.S. ambassadors Peter Hoekstra and Joseph Cella. The duo has been working in conjunction to stop Project Elephant from proceeding.

“Ambassadors Hoekstra and I fired a flare on 4 April 2023 to the National Security Division of the Justice Department warning them about Gotion and others lobbying and advocating unregistered with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in Lansing, Michigan for years,” the pair wrote in an email to The Midwesterner. “Gotion scrambled with  their lawyers and within three weeks people were registered as lobbyists with  the Michigan Secretary of State in Lansing and in Washington with the Justice Department as Foreign Agents.”

Thelen has repeatedly denied that neither Gotion nor he have any affiliations with the Peoples Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party. But, as reported by The Midwesterner last August, Gotion’s “FARA filing, which is required for companies attempting to influence politicians and regulators on behalf of a foreign government, read in part, ‘Gotion, Inc. is wholly owned and controlled by by (sic) Hefei Gotion High-Tech Power Energy Co., Ltd.'”

“It is irregular that Chuck Thelen has not registered as a foreign agent,” Hoekstra and Cella continued. “He is personally close to Gotion’s Chairman, Li Zhen, and has flown around the world with him for weeks at a time, from Argentina to China, and beyond.  Zhen is an avowed Communist, and has led Gotion employees in an oath of fealty to the Chinese Communist Party, pledging ‘to fight for Communism as long as I live.’  This is yet more fodder for Congress and any federal entity with oversight on such ‘deals’ to look into this and subject the entire thing to strict scrutiny.”

Gotion Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of Gotion High-tech Co., and is 26% owned by German-owned Volkswagen. Founded in China, Gotion’s  2022 articles of association include language to “carry out Party activities” in accordance with the Chinese Communist Party.

In May 2023, The Midwesterner broke the news that “the Chinese company the Michigan government is funding with $715 million taxpayer dollars is a key vehicle for the work of the Chinese Communist Party.” Gotion’s 2022 94-page Articles of Association, essentially company bylaws, “lays out the company’s governance structure and allegiance to the ‘Constitution of the Communist Party of China.'”

Article 9 of the articles states: “The Company shall set up a Party organization and carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The Company shall ensure necessary conditions for carrying out Party activities. The secretary of the Party committee shall be the chairman.”

The party organization’s duties are also enumerated: “Ensure and supervise the implementation of the Party’s guidelines, principles and policies in the Company, and implement major strategic decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council as well as relevant important work arrangements of the Party organization at the higher level…”

Last month, Thelen once again asserted Gotion Inc. operates independently of the PRC and CCP in an online townhall. At one point, he said the CCP is a political party much like the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S.

At another point, he accused individuals concerned about potential CCP and PRC affiliations with Gotion “xenophobes.”