Protests have erupted over plans for a Chinese university to establish a satellite campus on donated riverside land in Budapest, threatening to disrupt Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s pro-Beijing agenda in a country with strong links to China.
The transfer of state-owned property near Budapest, where Shanghai-based Fudan University intends to establish a new campus, was authorised by Hungary’s parliament on Tuesday. By 2024, the site should be operational.
According to recent research, about 70% of the Hungarian population opposes the planned campus. A rally at the proposed location gathered roughly 10,000 people earlier this month.
One cardboard placard said, “We will not become a colony!”
Detractors claim that the country’s high-quality education system would deteriorate as the Chinese Communist Party grows in power. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony renamed roadways near the planned campus “Free Hong Kong Road” and “Uyghur Martyrs’ Road” before the rally.
According to Agence France-Presse, the project would cost 1.5 billion euros ($1.79 billion). A total of 1.3 billion euros will be financed by China.
According to Karacsony, an opposition lawmaker and possible challenger to Orban, this “will leave even our descendants in debt. It is intolerable that the Hungarian government prioritises Chinese interests over Hungarian interests.”