Thousands of Hungarians take to the streets to protest against the construction of the Fudan branch

Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets on Saturday (June 5) to protest against Fudan University’s plan to open a Fudan campus in Budapest, some of them carrying banners labeled “treason” and accusing Hungary’s ruling right-wing government.

In April, the Hungarian government signed a strategic agreement with Shanghai’s Fudan University to open a campus in Budapest by 2024. This will be the only foreign branch of Fudan University and will be the first Chinese university campus in one of the 27 EU member states. The Hungarian government will also finance this high investment plan. The previous government plan was to build a dormitory village for Hungarian students in Budapest.

Critics accuse Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán Viktor (note: Hungarian names are given in surname order before first name) of currying favor with Beijing, and also fear that the Chinese campus will weaken the quality of Hungarian higher education and help Beijing increase its influence in Hungary and the EU.

“I don’t agree that our country should strengthen vassal (feudal) relations with China (the Chinese Communist Party).” Patrik, a 22-year-old student who declined to give his full name, told Reuters at a protest in Budapest.

He said government funds should be used “to improve our own university, not to build a Chinese university.

The organizer of Saturday’s protest said on Facebook, “The Young Democrats’ Union (ruling party FIDESZ) is selling off Hungarian students’ housing and their future at wholesale just to bring the elite universities of the Chinese (Communist) dictatorship into the country.”

Hungarian opposition politicians and economists have criticized this Fudan University branch project for its high costs and lack of transparency.

Budapest Mayor Karácsony Gergely opposed the establishment of a Fudan University branch in the city because of Fudan’s pledged allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

“Now they are bringing in a university that represents the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, costing Hungarian taxpayers billions.” Karachsen said last month.

Fudan University, he said, “has regulations that require it to represent the Chinese Communist Party’s worldview. We see a very serious national security risk in this investment.”

In 2019, Fudan University revised its constitution, and the preamble to the new constitution removed “freedom of thought” and “the search for truth” in addition to “academic independence,” which was moved back. At the same time, the ideological content of the Chinese Communist Party, such as “the Party”, “socialism” and “the new era”, was substantially increased. The new constitution states that the school shall adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China and fully implement the Party’s education policies.

At a briefing on June 2, Karachsen said that Fudan University plans to set up a campus in the southern part of the capital’s industrial zone, and that the city is preparing to rename the surrounding streets “Uighur Martyr Road,” “Dalai Lama Road” and “Bishop Xie Shiguang Road. “Bishop Sheshitsu Road” and “Free Hong Kong Road”.

“We are using our remaining political leeway to support the ideals of freedom and unity,” Karachsen said with local district governor Baranyi Krisztina, “We are not ruling out pragmatic cooperation with China, but using taxpayer money to build Fudan University would be too much. money to build Fudan University would be too much.”

MTI news agency quoted Hungarian Deputy Government Minister Tamas Schanda as saying that Saturday’s protest was unnecessary.

Beijing said this week that “some Hungarian politicians” were trying to obstruct Sino-Hungarian cooperation.

Reuters reported that Orban has built friendly relations with Beijing, Russia and other illiberal governments while taking on Western allies by curbing scientific research, judicial and media independence. For the first time since coming to power in 2010, Oban faces a unified opposition ahead of parliamentary elections in 2022.