Hungary's opposition pledges to block construction of 1st Chinese university

·2-min read
Hungary and Chinese flags
Hungary and Chinese flags

Budapest [Hungary], May 29 (ANI): Hungary's political opposition has pledged to block the construction of the first Chinese university in the European Union (EU) due to the project's financial and security risks.

The project, the government, says will raise the standard of education and provide students with globally competitive knowledge, Al Jazeera reported.

However, the country's opposition is not convinced. Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karacsony, who hopes to run as the opposition candidate for prime minister in elections next year, promised to use "all possible legal and political means" to halt the plan of the right-wing government to build a campus for Fudan University in the capital.

The Fudan university is a Shanghai-based institution, which ranks among the world's top 200 universities. It is expected to be launched in Hungary by 2024.

Under the plan, up to 8,000 students will live and learn in a sprawling facility on the banks of the Danube.

Hungary will foot the full 1.5 billion euros ($1.8bn) bill to build the campus, powered by a huge loan from Beijing.

This has further raised the concerns of increasing Hungary's reliance on China, which has been accused of using debt-trap diplomacy to strengthen influence over other countries.

China has sought to use its huge fiscal firepower to try to win influence in Central and Eastern Europe as part of a bid to boost its interests inside the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been seeking to strengthen Hungary's links to the east as the country keeps to take cash.

Critics note that Hungary will not take up loans under the EU's Recovery Fund, and say that illustrates that Orban prefers funding with few strings attached.

Hungary has regularly supported Chinese interests as tensions have soared between Beijing and those Western institutions.

Hungary has ignored US warnings that Huawei is a security risk, to hand the company a starring role in building its 5G networks.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas offered Orban a stern rebuke on May 10, after Budapest blocked EU measures against China's tightening of control over Hong Kong.

"This is not the first time that Hungary has broken away from unity when it comes to the issue of China," Maas told reporters. "I think everybody can work out for themselves where the reasons are."

Michael Ignatieff is president of Central European University, a US institution forced from Budapest in 2018.

He calls the arrival of Fudan "another blow to academic freedom", suggesting the university will not be offering courses critical of either the Chinese or Hungarian governments. (ANI)

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