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HomeBusinessDisqualified Conservative leadership hopeful Brown met twice with Vancouver allies of Communist China

Disqualified Conservative leadership hopeful Brown met twice with Vancouver allies of Communist China

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Bob Mackin 

Could Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown have been one of the Conservative leadership hopefuls targeted by the Chinese government in 2022? 

The June 3 bombshell report by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians said some lawmakers are “semi-witting or witting participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.”

Brampton Mayor and Conservative Party leadership candidate Patrick Brown at the Chinese Canadian Society for Political Engagement in Vancouver (WeChat)

The heavily censored “Special Report on Foreign Interference in Canada’s Democratic Processes and Institutions” also said foreign actors targeted party leadership campaigns. 

“Three sentences were deleted to remove injurious or privileged information,” the report said. “The sentences described two specific instances where [People’s Republic of China] officials allegedly interfered in the leadership races of the Conservative Party of Canada.”

Brown was the sixth candidate to run for the leadership in March 2022, in the wake of the caucus vote to remove Erin O’Toole. Under O’Toole, the party took a hawkish stance toward China, but remained in opposition after the September 2021 election. 

O’Toole told the Hogue Commission on foreign interference in April 2024 that Chinese misinformation cost the party between five and nine seats in the election and led to the end of his leadership.  

Brown did not make it to the finish line, however. He was disqualified in July 2022 due to campaign financing violations. Two months later, Pierre Poilievre was elected leader.

In the spring of 2022, Brown made at least two trips to Vancouver to meet with politically active figures in the Lower Mainland’s Chinese community. Several of them leaders of groups affiliated with the Chinese consulate’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, which promotes the Chinese Communist Party in B.C.

Sing Tao daily’s April 2, 2022 edition included a photograph of Brown at a boardroom table with about a dozen people for an event hosted by the Canada Committee 100 Society (CC 100). Founding president, Ding Guo, seated next to Brown, is also known as an advisor to B.C. NDP premier David Eby. One of CC 100’s advisors is Victor Oh, the pro-China Conservative senator who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 this month. 

The Sing Tao story said some of the attendees told Brown the party should learn from the defeat of two Conservative MPs in the 2021 election. That was a reference to incumbents Kenny Chiu (Steveston-Richmond East) and Alice Wong (Richmond Centre), who were replaced by Liberals Parm Bains and Wilson Miao, respectively. 

Brown told the meeting that “he believes that the most important thing for legislators is to reflect the opinions of voters in the constituency and serve them, rather than to be favoured by other things, let alone be ignored by the phenomenon of racial discrimination occurring in the local area.”

Chiu lost after a WeChat disinformation campaign that alleged his proposal for a registry of lobbyists for foreign governments would stoke anti-Chinese racism. Bains repeated that theme during his campaign. 

On May 28, 2022, Brown was back in Vancouver. He made a Saturday afternoon visit to the Chinese Canadian Society for Political Engagement (CCSPE), also known as the “Chinese Canadian Voting Alliance Activity Centre.” The former Domino’s Pizza on Dunbar Street had been converted into a clubhouse for an unregistered third party that promoted ethnic Chinese candidates through in-person events, its 51Vote.org website and WeChat channel. 

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown in Vancouver in May 2022 (WeChat)

Brown and 20 others appeared in a group photo, circulated on WeChat, inside the facility. To Brown’s right in the second row, the honorary chair of the the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, Yongtao Chen. To his left, CCSPE founder Kong Qingcun. Next to Kong, Harris Niu, leader of the Canadian Community Service Association.  

Maria Ling Xu, president of the United Global Chinese Women’s Association of Canada, stood in the front row before Chen. Wearing a mask, second from left, was Theresa ZhanZhan Feng, an aide to BC United leader Kevin Falcon. Fourth from left was Chen’s wife, Sang Chengqun, who helped recruit members for Brown. 

Feng did not respond to requests for comment.

The NSICOP report said that officials from China “used clandestine networks to conduct foreign interference in Greater Vancouver.” The unreacted version contained six sentences that “describe PRC’s efforts to leverage its network to support a specific political candidate, noted the work of certain organizations and individuals within the network, and noted an effort by a security and intelligence organization to counter the work of one of the individuals.”

Brown did not respond to interview requests made to his press secretary, Gary Collins. 

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