Hungary: protest against the construction project of a Chinese university
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – Several thousand people gathered in the Hungarian capital on Saturday against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s plan to host a Chinese university in Budapest.
A strategic agreement that Hungary has signed with Shanghai-based Fudan University envisages the opening of a branch in the city’s 9th district. Plans call for the completion of the Budapest campus by 2024. It would welcome international students and be the school’s only foreign outpost, as well as the first Chinese university campus in the European Union to 27 countries.
Protesters marched from Heroes’ Square towards the Hungarian Parliament building, defying a pandemic ban on gatherings of more than 500 people. The crowd carried banners with the inscription “No Fudan”, flags and posters.
The Budapest authorities opposed the idea of a university branch. They argue that the $ 1.9 billion project would place a huge burden on taxpayers and send the wrong political message due to alleged human rights violations in China.
Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony had a huge photo of a protester facing a tank in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square projected behind him during Saturday’s protest. Chinese troops opened fire on protesters in the square on June 4, 1989, killing hundreds and possibly thousands.
“Let us be clear who we are not protesting against,” Karácsony said. “We have our problem with the dictators … And we are not protesting at all against the Chinese who live with us peacefully in this wonderful city.”
“What we want is the student city,” added Karácsony. “What we don’t want is the 500 billion forints (1.45 billion euros; 1.6 billion dollars) from the elite Chinese university paid for with taxpayers’ money. It’s that simple.”
Orban, a right-wing populist, has forged closer ties with Russia and China as he faces criticism from the European Union for his authoritarian ways and firm anti-immigration stance.
Hungarian officials have insisted that Fudan, ranked among the top 100 universities in the world, will help raise the standards of higher education in Hungary. But the university’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party have sparked outrage among liberal-minded Hungarians.