Thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest, Hungary’s capital, on June 5 to protest against Fudan University’s plan to open a branch campus there. Gergely Gulyas, director of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, told the media on the evening of June 6 that the plan had not yet entered the planning stage and supported a decision by the citizens of Budapest in a referendum in early 2023.
Gulyas pointed out that the plan to build a branch of Fudan University in Budapest has not even entered the planning stage yet, and once the plan takes shape, it can be put to a referendum in early 2023. He said that “the issue of Fudan University does not currently exist in a form suitable for public debate.” Nor is there any plan,” Gureyas continued. Once the plan is in place and the financial conditions, the cost and funding to build the university are clear, then a decision can be made.”
We can get there in a year and a half,” Gureyas said. (……) We don’t want to go against the will of the people, including the people of Budapest, and ‘do good’ to them. Therefore, we support the idea that once the terms of the investment are known, the people of Budapest should be able to decide in a referendum whether they need Fudan University.”
Hungary, under the Orbán government, and Fudan University signed a strategic cooperation agreement on April 27, with plans to open a branch in Budapest in 2024. The pre-tax construction cost of the nearly 26-hectare campus is estimated at $1.8 billion, more than Hungary will spend on its entire higher education system in 2019, according to government documents obtained by Hungarian investigative journalism center Direkt36 in April this year. The Hungarian government plans to provide central funding for 20 percent of the project, with the remaining $1.5 billion to be financed by loans from Chinese banks.
Opposition politicians such as Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, from the Dialogue for Hungary party, oppose the plan. He is considered Hungary’s main rival to current Prime Minister Orban in next year’s election. Karacsony said on Saturday that the popular protests against the construction of a local branch of Fudan University were a symbol of Hungarians’ rejection of the government’s hard-line decision. The Fudan University incident is our first step to take back Hungary from the powers that be,” he told the rally.
Karasonyi vowed to stop the establishment of the Fudan University campus and to take action against the Orbán government for “favoring the privileged 1 percent (of Hungary) over the 99 percent of the population” in any issue. “The biggest problem in Hungary today is those in power who do not have any moral goals,” he told the people who participated in the protest.
Karasonyi said, “The issue of Fudan is about whether this small country of 10 million people can finally decide its own destiny and whether we will really become a free country.” He said, “Although we are worlds apart on the issue of human rights …… but we really don’t want to build an elite Chinese school at the expense of Hungarian taxpayers.”