Thousands of Hungarians on Saturday demonstrated in Budapest against a plan by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to build a campus of a top Chinese university in the city.
About 10,000 people, according to an Agence France-Presse photographer, marched through the Hungarian capital to protest the proposed Fudan University campus, which is planned to be completed by 2024.
According to a deal signed between Hungary and the Shanghai-based university’s president, the campus, its first in Europe, would be a 500,000m2 complex.
However, the sprawling project has fed unease about Hungary’s diplomatic tilt from West to East and its soaring indebtedness to China, as well as sparked a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Budapest’s liberal mayor.
Leaked internal documents revealed that China is expected to give a 1.3 billion euro (US$1.58 billion) loan to cover most of the estimated 1.5 billion euro costs.
“No Fudan! West, not East!” read one placard at the protest, while another accused Orban and his ruling right-wing party Fidesz of cozying up to China.
“Orban and Fidesz portray themselves as anti-communists, but in reality the communists are their friends,” Szonja Radics, a 21-year-old university student, told reporters at the protest, the first major demonstration in Hungary this year.
With an opinion poll last week showing that a majority of Budapest residents oppose the plan, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony has urged Orban not to force unwanted projects on the city.
On Wednesday, he announced the renaming of streets around the proposed campus site to “Free Hong Kong Road,” “Dalai Lama Road” and “Uighur Martyrs’ Road” to highlight Chinese human rights sore points.
A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson on Thursday said that the move was “beneath contempt,” but added that it should not affect the project.
Orban’s government has said that a prestigious outpost of Fudan University would permit thousands of Hungarian and international students to acquire high-quality qualifications.
It would also fit in with an older plan to build a “Student City” dormitory project for thousands of Hungarian students at the site, it said, although Karacsony, who is eyeing a run against Orban at a general election next year, fears the Fudan campus would take over most of the area.
Saturday’s protest “made no sense, as the process is still at the planning stage,” Tamas Schanda, a government official, said, adding that the final decision would be made “in the second half of 2022.”
Fudan is the latest landmark in Orban’s foreign policy of “Eastern Opening,” which analysts describe as a geopolitical balancing act.
Critics have portrayed the nationalist prime minister as China and Russia’s “Trojan horse” inside the EU and NATO.
The courting of Fudan, which deleted references to “freedom of thought” from its charter in 2019, also fuels concerns about academic freedom in Hungary.
NO CONNECTION: Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said the CECC has linked no deaths so far to the AstraZeneca vaccine Eleven people in the nation have died after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, but the deaths should not deter older people with chronic health conditions from getting vaccinated. Nine of the deaths — people aged 65 to 97 — took place three hours to one day after the AstraZeneca vaccine was given, the center said, while eight of the 11 deaths were people aged 75 or older, most of whom had chronic health conditions. On Wednesday, the center said that 12 more people — seven women and five men aged 42 to 97 at
HELPING HAND: Vaccine eligibility can likely be widened to cover pregnant women now that the nation has more vaccine doses than it planned for, Chen Shih-chung said Taiwan yesterday received a shipment of 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US, obtaining its largest single batch of vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year. A cargo plane of Taiwanese national carrier China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) carrying the Moderna Inc vaccines landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at about 4:30pm, after leaving Memphis, Tennessee, early on Saturday, US time. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) and American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen were at the airport to welcome the plane. The vaccines were transported to a cold chain logistics center, where they would be inspected
‘NO STRINGS ATTACHED’: The US is donating the shots without any political or economic conditions, and with the singular aim of saving lives, a senior US official said The US was yesterday to ship 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, a senior US administration official told Reuters, more than tripling Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the nation. Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through so-called “vaccine diplomacy,” had initially promised to donate 750,000 doses to Taiwan, but is increasing that number as US President Joe Biden’s administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world. The 2.5 million donated doses of the Moderna Inc vaccine would leave Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight belonging to Taiwan’s national carrier, China Airlines Ltd (中華航空), early
VULNERABLE: The CECC has been moving older infected people or those with underlying health conditions, who were in isolation, to hospitals for better health monitoring The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 75 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections, the lowest daily count since the nationwide level 3 alert was issued last month. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said the 75 local infections are 35 males and 40 females, aged from under five to over 80, and they began experiencing symptoms between June 8 and Sunday. New Taipei City reported 38 cases, followed by Taipei with 22, Taoyuan with five, Miaoli County with three, Keelung and Taichung with two each, and Kaohsiung, Yunlin County and Changhua County with one each, CECC