China blasts at Hungary's street rename

Photo: EPA Wang Wenbin

China on Thursday blasted at Hungarian liberal politicians after Budapest mayor renamed streets over human rights flashpoints in China in protest against a planned branch of a top Chinese university to be opened in Hungarian capital, news wires reported.

The Fudan University's first European campus has fed growing unease about Hungary's diplomatic tilt from West to East and its soaring indebtedness to China. The four street signs around the planned site now bear names referencing topics that draw Beijing criticism abroad for alleged human rights violations. The street names are "Free Hong Kong road", "Uyghur Martyrs' road", "Dalai Lama road", and "Bishop Xie Shiguang road", after a persecuted Chinese Catholic priest.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Thursday accused Hungarian politicians of "hyping up China-related issues and hindering China-Hungary cooperation." "Such behaviour is beneath contempt," he told a regular press briefing.

Wang's rebuke followed a call by Chinese President Xi Jinping for his country to show a softer face abroad and cultivate a "reliable, admirable and respectable image." China's foreign ministry routinely decries foreign politicians for not toeing Beijing's line over issues from Taiwan to investigating the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A currently derelict peace of land in Budapest is set to house the Fudan campus in a half-million-square-metre complex by 2024, according to a deal signed between Hungary and the Shanghai-based university's president. But Budapest's mayor Gergely Karacsony said Wednesday that "we don't want the elite and private Fudan university here at the expense of Hungarian taxpayers."

The liberal mayor has previously blasted "Chinese influence-buying" in Hungary and urged PM Viktor Orban to honour a previous pledge not to force projects on the capital against its will. Opinion polls show a majority of Budapest residents oppose the plan.

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