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The Hungarian government argues that the debate around Fudan University is irrelevant, since no final decision has been made, yet it continues to take steps towards the Chinese University’s establishment in Budapest. Despite the capital’s opposition, the Fidesz-held majority in the Hungarian National Assembly voted to establish the Fudan University Hungary Foundation and to allocate its Danube-shore properties formerly designated to the Student City for free.

MSZP, the Democratic Coalition, LMP, Párbeszéd, and pro-Momentum independent representatives did not take part in the vote, which was passed in parliament on Tuesday with 134 for and 25 against. The votes against the bill were made by Jobbik and the Mi Hazánk Movement, as well as independent representatives formerly affiliated with Jobbik.

Fudan University Reaches Legality in Hungary

This bill switched the designated locations of the university and the Student City, which had previously taken up the entire area designated for development. While formerly expected to be constructed in the much less attractive northern part of the area, Fudan University will now take up the much larger and much more attractive Danube-shore properties formerly designated to the Student City.

Fudan University Budapest Comes Under Fire in National Assembly
Fudan University Budapest Comes Under Fire in National Assembly

While Fidesz supports the university strongly, Fudan faces nothing but criticism from opposition representatives.Continue reading

A last-minute modification of the legislation requires the government to report to lawmakers on preparations around the establishment of Fudan University Hungary as well as its budget for implementation, by December 31, 2022 at the latest. There will also be a referendum to finalize the decision.

Opposition Up in Arms Over Fudan Hungary

Alongside Tuesday’s vote around Fudan was the “anti-pedophile” bill, which included legislation not only on pedophilia, but on homosexuality and gender identity as well. Both the legislation around Fudan and the portion of the latter bill which targets the LGBTQ community do not stand well with the opposition.

LMP: Public Should Have Say on Large Investment Projects Including Fudan
LMP: Public Should Have Say on Large Investment Projects Including Fudan

Large investments in Hungary today were a way for the government to "feed" the companies close to it, Márta Demeter said.Continue reading

Party group leader of leftist green party Párbeszéd, Tímea Szabó spoke up before the session began, criticizing the governing Fidesz party of having many terrible moments in the past eleven years, but saying that this one “will end up on the dark pages of history.”

Today’s vote is a perfect summary of what your 11 years of governance has been all about: theft, selling Hungary to China, hate towards opposition-led cities, the slave-like treatment of Hungarian workers and the fueling of hatred towards others.”

After telling Fidesz politicians to be ashamed of themselves, Szabó proceeded to hang a flag formed like that of China, with a Fidesz logo displayed in red.

Photo via Tímea Szabó’s Facebook page

Budapest Is Not On Board with National Assembly

While the government has until the end of 2022 to finalize its plans, around 30 thousand people in Budapest have made it clear that they do not want Fudan University’s Budapest campus to be constructed.

Karácsony: Fudan University Issue Matter of Sovereignty
Karácsony: Fudan University Issue Matter of Sovereignty

"The Fudan issue is about whether this small country of 10 million can finally decide its own fate, about whether we will really be a free nation," Karácsony said at the demonstration.Continue reading

In a questionnaire led by the opposition, Budapest residents were asked

  • Whether they agree with the Student City not being built according to its original plans – 94.38 percent said no
  • Whether they agree with the establishment of Fudan University in Budapest – 96.92 percent said no
  • Whether they agree with the Hungarian government picking up a loan or adjusting its budget to finance the construction of the university – 99.18 percent  said no
  • Whether they agree with the university operating in Hungary through public financing without offering free education to Hungarian students – 98.74 percent said no

If the thirty thousand respondents are taken as relative to Budapest’s population, one could conclude that 96 percent of the city does not want the Chinese university to be established in the capital at all. Still, the survey raises the question of how many of its respondents were pro-opposition and how many of them were pro-Fidesz.

Considering that it was led by opposition leaders and promoted on opposition platforms, it may not have reached an audience representative of the entire Budapest population. Nevertheless, thirty thousand responses must be taken into account.

Hungarians Protest, Gov’t Changes Language on Fudan

The opposition’s questionnaire was not the only identifier of resistance to the bill. On Saturday, June 5, thousands of people gathered in Budapest to protest the construction of the University, and to show support for the plans around the Student City.

The rally, which was organized by left-wing activist András Jámbor, gathered around 10,000 protestors, and it led the government to change its tone around the university. Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics had previously explained that there was no plan B, that the operation was underway, and that the university would definitely be completed.

Gov't Changes Communication Strategy as Controversy Surrounds Fudan
Gov't Changes Communication Strategy as Controversy Surrounds Fudan

Although previous strategies have all tried to secure the construction of the campus, the political leadership is now trying to emphasize that it supports the opposition plan to call a referendum on the establishment of the Chinese University.Continue reading

Following the protests, however, government officials have begun saying that since the project is not yet finalized and the numbers are not yet clear, Fudan cannot yet be properly debated. This type of language could be heard during Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s press conference on June 10.

Referendum to Make the Final Decision

The protests also led to relative certainty that the final step of the university’s creation will be a referendum, confirmed during the June 10 press conference. While the government has until December 31, 2022, to present its finalized plans around Fudan, if Hungarians truly do not want the university, they will make it clear through such a referendum.

Orbán: Hungary-China Cooperation Needed in "New Economic Order"
Orbán: Hungary-China Cooperation Needed in

According to Orbán, Hungary’s relationship with China is neither ideological or political, it is strictly a question of economic cooperation.Continue reading

At a press conference of the joint opposition, Spark (Szikra) Movement candidate András Jámbor said that laws which are brought into effect “can be reverted if we change government in 2022.”

If the referendum has only a one percent chance of coming to fruition, and there is a one percent chance that it will be successful in causing the government to step back, then it needs to be done.”

Hungarian Universities Are Less Controversial Investments

In an interview with Népszava, Abel Award winner mathematician and former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences László Lovász said that it is difficult to formulate an opinion on the subject, “since we do not know the details, but everything depends on the details.”

China Lambasts Budapest Mayor for Remarks at Protest Against Fudan
China Lambasts Budapest Mayor for Remarks at Protest Against Fudan

The Chinese government thinks some key words, such as "Tiananmen Square protests," "democracy," and "human rights," are ”totally a smear of China.”Continue reading

Regardless of future development’s, Lovász believes it would have been better if the energy and money directed towards Fudan would have been directed instead to the development of the Hungarian universities already in existence.

In the featured photo illustration: a protest against the Fudan University. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

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