After the Hungarian government said in early May that no other option was possible, on Thursday, June 10, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said he “will hold a referendum” on whether to locate the Budapest campus of Fudan University in the country’s capital.
On Thursday, Orban told a press conference that “there will be such a referendum” and that “it will be a good opportunity to show the positions and reasons of all sides. Orban stressed that he himself “has a lot of good reasons to show” and that “I will accept the decision of the Budapest voters when the results of the referendum are known. This local referendum is not expected to be held before 2023, and according to the Prime Minister’s Office, a concrete plan for the construction of the Fudan branch needs to be obtained before the referendum can be held.
On June 4, the opposition-run city of Budapest launched a public consultation, which showed that the majority of Budapest citizens were against the Fudan branch plan. Last Saturday’s march of thousands of people also showed Orban the surge of public opinion. He originally wanted to see the Fudan branch land in the capital in 2024, so he signed an agreement with Fudan University at the end of April this year. However, because of the huge Chinese loan and financial pressures involved, the public fears that the tax money will be used to “help China build a Chinese university” instead of helping Budapest complete its pre-intended “student city”. Leaders of several opposition political parties are also very resistant to the Fudan campus plan, saying it would send the wrong signal about human rights and democracy to Hungary’s EU foothold and allow Orbán to “go further and further down the road of seeking autocracy. Orbán himself is now facing a coalition of opposition parties, which have resolved to reach an internal rapprochement and jointly seek to end Orbán’s premiership in the 2022 parliamentary elections.