Budapest snubs PM Orban by renaming streets

Photo: EPA

Budapest liberal mayor announced on Wednesday that several streets in the Hungarian capital near a planned campus of a Chinese university will be renamed to commemorate alleged human rights abuses by Beijing, Reuters reported.

One street will be named after the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, labelled a dangerous separatist by Beijing. Another will be called "Uyghur Martyrs' Road" after the mainly Muslim ethnic group that many Wester politicians claim has been victim of a Chinese genocide, and a third will be called "Free Hong Kong Road". A fourth street will be renamed after a Chinese Catholic bishop who was jailed.

The renamed streets will surround an area where China's Fudan University is planning to open a campus offering masters programmes in liberal arts, medicine, business and engineering for 6,000 students with 500 faculty. "This Fudan project would put in doubt many of the values that Hungary committed itself to 30 years ago" at the fall of Communism, said Mayor Gergely Karacsony, a liberal opposition figure who plans to run next year to unseat PM Viktor Orban.

Orban's liberal opponents accuse him of cosying up to China, Russia and other illiberal governments, while angering European allies by curbing the independence of the judiciary and media. Karacsony told reporters the Chinese campus would cost Hungarian taxpayers nearly $2 billion and went against an earlier deal with the government to build dormitories and facilities for Hungarian students in the district.

The government has defended the project: "The presence of Fudan University means that it will be possible to learn from the best in the world," Tamas Schanda, deputy minister for innovation and technology said last week. According to an opinion poll by liberal think tank Republikon Institute published on Tuesday, 66% of Hungarians oppose and 27% support the idea of the campus.

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