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Hungarians protest against $1.6 billion Chinese uni campus
Demonstrators protest against the planned Fudan University campus in Budapest. Photo: Reuters.

Thousands object to deal with Beijing as Budapest prevents EU criticising Hong Kong policy

(AF) Thousands of people staged a weekend protest in Budapest against a Hungarian government plan to build a campus of a Chinese university in the city.

About 10,000 people marched through the central European capital to protest against the proposed Fudan University campus, which is planned for completion by 2024.

According to a deal signed between Hungary and the Shanghai-based university’s president, the 500,000 square metre campus would be funded by a $1.6 billion loan from China.

“No Fudan! West, not East!” read one placard at the protest, while another accused Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling right-wing party Fidesz of cosying 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 Agence France Presse..

EU FRUSTRATED

The government in Budapest, headed by right-wing populist Orban, has become increasingly close to Beijing, often frustrating its fellow European Union (EU) members.

A senior German official condemned Hungary’s decision to prevent the EU from issuing a statement criticizing China’s Hong Kong policy. He said that the EU’s foreign policy is being undermined.

Last month, Budapest refused to approve new EU trade and development agreements with countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. It also refused to support the EU’s call for a ceasefire in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, in March last year, Hungary allowed the EU to sanction four Chinese officials on the grounds that they violated the human rights of Muslim Uighurs in north-western China.

The Hungarian government’s media office stated that EU sanctions against China were “meaningless, presumptuous and harmful”.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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