Budapest, Jun 5 (EFE).- Undeterred by pandemic restrictions, thousands of Hungarians turned out for a protest here Saturday against right-wing President Viktor Orban’s plan to have a Chinese university open a satellite campus in this capital.
The project for what would be the first European outpost of Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University represents an investment of roughly $1.5 billion, according to the national government.
Hungary would need to borrow that money and the work would be done by Chinese companies, creating few if any jobs for local people.
Though the idea is controversial for a number of reasons, much of the opposition is over the proposal to build the Fudan campus on a site where liberal Mayor Gergely Karacsony intended to erect affordable housing for Budapest’s student population.
“For the university city and against Fidesz (Orban’s party),” was the slogan for Saturday’s mobilization on Andrassy Avenue, organized by Karacsony and fellow government critic Andras Jambor.
“We have reached the point were Fidesz sells the housing and future of Hungarian university students to bring to the country the elite university of the Chinese dictatorship,” the two men said in a statement announcing the protest.
Municipal authorities initiated on Friday a public consultation asking Budapest residents to weigh-in on the Fudan initiative. A recent nationwide poll founded that 66 percent Hungarians oppose the plan, while only 27 percent approve.
Officials in the capital district designated to host Fudan campus raised the ire of Beijing this week by renaming several streets in the area as Free Hong Kong Road, Uygur Martyrs’ Road, Dalai Lama Road and Bishop Xie Shiguang (a Catholic bishop at odds with the Chinese government).
“We are raising our voice against the selling out of Hungary’s national sovereignty, not against the Chinese state, not against the Chinese people,” Karacsony, who is expected to challenge Orban in the next presidential election, said at Saturday’s protest.
Orban has clashed with Hungary’s partners in the European Union over his policy of bolstering ties with China and Russia. EFE mn/dr