Thousands of Hungarians protested in Budapest on Sunday against Prime Minister Victor Orban’s government’s plans to build a campus at Futan University in China by 2024. About 10,000 people took part in the march, the AFP photographer said. Hungary has signed an agreement with a Shanghai-based university president to build a 500,000-square-meter university campus, the first of its kind in Europe. However, the ambitious plan raises public concern about the sloping east of Hungary and the growing debt to China, as well as the diplomatic friction between Beijing and Budapest’s Mayor Jorge Karachan. According to leaked documents, China could provide a loan of $ 1.3 billion to cover most of the estimated project costs, reaching 1.5 1.5 billion. Protesters have accused Arban and his ruling right-wing party, Fidesz, of betraying China. “Orbans and Fidesz pretend to be anti-communists, but in reality their friends are communists,” said Sona Radina, a 21-year-old student. A poll conducted last week shows that the majority of people in Budapest do not support the plan, and urged Karachi Arbane not to impose plans on the city he does not want. Earlier this week, Beijing announced that three city streets in the undeveloped area where the Budapest Mayor’s University campus will be built will be renamed Free Hong Kong Street, Dalai Lama Street and Uyghur Martyrs Street, drawing Beijing’s most intense attention on human rights issues. In response, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was “not even deserving of contempt”, but that it should not affect the plan. According to a representative of the Arbans government on Saturday, the protest action does not make sense because “the process is still in the planning stage” and the final decisions will be made in the second half of 2022. The Urban government says thousands of Hungarian and foreign students can receive a quality education at the Futan University branch. The plan also includes an old plan to build a dormitory for thousands of Hungarian students, but Karachi, which could join forces with Orban in next year’s parliamentary elections, has expressed concern that much of the area will be occupied by the Futan University campus. Futan University, one of China’s most prestigious colleges, removed references to freedom of thought from its official laws two years ago, which is another concern for Hungarian academics. Orban’s critics see him as a Sino-Russian “Trojan horse” in the European Union and NATO. Source: Letta
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About the Author: Will Smith
Alfred Lee covers public and private tech markets from New York. He was previously a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, and prior to that was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has received a Journalist of the Year award from the L.A. Press Club and an investigative reporting award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.