Budapest residents to decide fate of controversial Chinese university project

The controversial Chinese university campus in Budapest that prompted a protest in the Hungarian capital this weekend may be delayed, Bloomberg reports.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government is ready to submit a plan for the project to Budapest voters in 2023, Mandiner weekly reported, effectively diffusing what’s become a contentious issue ahead of the tightest parliamentary election in more than a decade.

The government backs holding a referendum in the capital in about 18 months for voters to decide on the campus for Fudan University, according to a transcript of a Mandiner interview with Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas published Sunday.

“We don’t want to do something ‘good’ against the will of the people, including the residents of Budapest,” Gulyas said. “That’s why we support that once the conditions of the investment are known, that Budapest voters decide whether they want a Fudan University.”

The project, which polls showed is widely opposed by Budapest residents, has become a major issue in the 2022 parliamentary election.

Opposition parties, which have united in an effort to oust Orban, point to the taxpayer funded campus investment as further evidence of the Hungarian leader’s drift from western values and his proximity to authoritarian regimes.

Thousands of Hungarians rallied in the capital on Saturday to oppose the project in the first major protest since pandemic restrictions were eased.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, the opposition front-runner to challenge Orban in next year’s vote, had the streets around the planned campus renamed this week with references such as the Dalai Lama and Free Hong Kong to draw attention to the plan, irking both the Orban government and China.-Photo: EPA/BBC

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