A demonstration is being organized in Budapest against the construction of the Chinese Fudan University campus in Hungary. According to the organizer, the current restrictions on gatherings are absurd and impossible to follow, which is why they decided to go around the current regulation by registering 12 different demonstrations with the police instead of one, which will all start within the same timeframe at Heroes’ Square on June 5th.
After five million people were vaccinated, the Orbán government lifted most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions. Under the new rules, organizing and participating in gatherings and demonstrations is allowed, but only under certain restrictions until June 14th, after which all restrictions will cease to apply. Currently, only up to 500 people can attend outdoor events, including demonstrations, without an immunity certificate. If more people are present, the event can only be attended by those who are immune as well as minors accompanied by immune adults. According to the regulations, the organizer of the demonstration is responsible for ensuring that the measures are being observed.
However, many believe that the current rules are essentially impossible to comply with.
“We find the regulation as implemented by [ruling] Fidesz absurd,” András Jámbor, the organizer of an upcoming protest against the controversial construction of Fudan University’s Budapest campus told RTL Klub.
According to Jámbor, who is also in the running for a joint opposition candidate spot in Budapest’s VIII and IX districts, guaranteeing and controlling that a demonstration will remain below 500 people is completely impossible.
Szabolcs Hegyi, one of the legal experts of human rights NGO Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), also pointed out several issues with the current regulation to government-critical news site Magyar Hang.
Hegyi thinks that the organizer is in fact required to know exactly how many people are taking part in the demonstration when they notify the police. If an organizer expects fewer than 500 participants, they basically have to “convince” the police that there will be no more than the legal limit.
The government decree also does not clarify what happens if a demonstration with fewer than 500 people registered in advance is attended by more than that number.
Participation subject to an immunity card requires a serious system for entry, which is completely alien to the usual practice of organizing demonstrations. Potential participants can join an outdoor protest from any direction, as the place of gathering is not an enclosed, fenced area. Hegyi says even pinpointing when exactly someone becomes a participant of a demonstration can be hard as it is a public event, so a passerby can listen to a rally and then decide whether to join the demonstration.
Due to these legal uncertainties, the organizer of the protest against the Chinese university’s campus decided to undermine the current regulation.
András Jámbor and his team registered 12 different demonstrations at the police instead of one, which will all begin around the same time near each other at Heroes’ square on June 5th.
The separate demonstrations will then meet in Kossuth Square, where immunity cards will be requested from protesters. For those who do not have immunity cards, separate demonstrations of under 500 people have been registered near the square so that they can listen to the speeches as well.
Featured photo illustration by Balázs Mohai/MTI