Thousands of protesters have opposed the establishment of a Chinese university in Budapest and accused the regime of flattering China.
Hungary seems to be holding back the construction project of a Chinese university. Thousands of protesters opposed the project on the streets over the weekend, accusing the government of flattering China. This was reported by the news agency Reuters.
Prime minister Viktor Orbánin opponents fear that the € 1.6 billion campus project would lower the level of higher education and allow the Chinese administration to increase its influence in Hungary and the European Union.
Read more: Thousands opposed the Chinese university campus planned for Budapest
Orbán’s chief of staff said on Sunday that the university project is not even in the planning stage yet. He also noted that when the plan takes shape in early 2023, a referendum could be held on the issue.
“Once the terms of the project are known, we will support the holding of a referendum in Budapest to see if the locals want Fudan University here.” Gergely Goulash said the pro-government news site Mandiner on Sunday.
Prime minister Orbán has built close relations with China, for example through large-scale trade projects. Hungary has also rejected a number of EU statements condemning China for human rights violations.
According to media reports, the Hungarian government was willing to pay for the construction of the first European campus at Fudan University in Shanghai with a Chinese loan.
In opposition mayor of Budapest Gergerly Christmas criticizes the project in Saturday’s protest. He said the project was a symbol of how Hungarians are fighting the government’s harsh decisions.
“We really don’t want the Chinese elite school to be built with Hungarian tax money.”
Christmas is considered Orbán’s most potential challenger in next year’s election.
An unnamed spokesman for the Chinese embassy criticized Karácsony’s comments on the embassy’s Facebook page.
“It is inappropriate to criticize the internal affairs of another country in bright daylight, especially when the speech included keywords such as‘ Tiananmen Square protests ’,‘ democracy ’,‘ human rights ’and‘ values ’,” the spokesman said.