More than ten thousand people took to the streets on Sunday, June 6, to protest an agreement between the Hungarian government and Beijing to build a university on a plot of land in Budapest that was intended to build dormitories for low-income Hungarian students.

The deal between Viktor Orban’s government and the Chinese Communist Party signed in April of this year would cost Hungarian taxpayers $1.8 billion and be built with Chinese labor and materials.

The Fudan University with its headquarters in Shanghai would be the first Chinese university in Europe.

Hungary is also the first European country to sign an intergovernmental cooperation agreement with China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the ostentatious Chinese infrastructure project with which Beijing is trying to expand its influence globally.

The project would be built on a 500,000 square meter site and completed only in 2024.

Student groups that took to the streets to oppose the deal with the Chinese Communist Party are protesting the deal because they say the land was supposed to be used to build dormitories for low-income Hungarian students who come to the city to study from rural areas.

Among the protesters’ slogans Sunday were “support Hungarian education” and “We won’t be a Chinese colony!”

One person carried a sign that appeared to depict Orban and Chinese leader Xi Jinping as an engaged couple (Orban is the bride).

“I do not agree with our country’s strengthening feudal relationship with China,” said Patrik, a protesting 22-year-old student. He said funds should be used, “to improve our own universities instead of building a Chinese one.”

Government response

According to Breitbart, Orban’s head of state, Gergely Gulyas, told a local media outlet on Sunday, “We support a referendum in Budapest to decide whether locals want Fudan University here.”  

Gulyas explained that besides agreeing to build Fudan University, no plans have been carried out and no concrete steps have been taken from which there is no going back.

“We don’t want to do something ‘good’ against the will of the people, including the residents of Budapest. 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 head of state said.

High risk of espionage

Orban government officials say Fudan University is a world-class institution and the construction was intended for the good of the education of Hungarians.

However, Szabolcs Panyi, a local media journalist published a report denouncing that “Viktor Orbán’s Eastern Opening policy helped Chinese intelligence set foot in Hungary, turning the country into a collision zone between China & the U.S. Chinese spies are already circling Hungarian politicians.”

According to Panyi, “The larger the Chinese footprint is in Hungary, the larger the risk of espionage.”

Budapest mayor wittily mocks the CCP

Gergely Karacsony, the liberal mayor of Budapest, called on Prime Minister Orban to cancel the project and recently announced the renaming of the streets surrounding the land proposed to build the Chinese Fudan University.

Alluding to the countless human rights violations of the communist regime, the mayor renamed the streets to “Free Hong Kong Road,” “Dalai Lama Road” and “Martyred Uyghurs Road.”

In his speech given Sunday at the protest, Karacsony spoke at a podium with a stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear, a TV character banned in China for having been compared to Xi Jinping.