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Tag: Fudan University

Local Referendum on Fudan Could Be Held in Fall, Says Ferencváros Mayor

After the Constitutional Court rejected attempts by the political opposition to hold a national referendum on Fudan University two weeks ago, officials began organizing a local referendum on the issue, said Krisztina Baranyi, Mayor of Budapest’s District IX, to ATV.

Baranyi said that now only local referendums in Ferencváros and in the capital would be possible. The Mayor also indicated that voters may not only be asked about Fudan, but also about other important issues in Budapest.

On when the referendums could be held, Baranyi said that whether at the same time or separately, the most optimistic timeline suggests that a referendum could be held in early or mid-autumn.

The Mayor of Ferencváros also found it strange that while Viktor Orbán had promised there would be no national referendum on Fudan University, newly-installed Minister of Culture and Innovation János Csák is saying that he would be happy to see Fudan in Budapest.

Csák recently commented that Fudan was one of the best universities in the world, and if it can offer quality education to students in Hungary as well, it will continue to increase the country’s attractiveness in the higher education market and therefore be worth bringing to Budapest. [HVG]

Could Fudan End Up in Győr Instead of Budapest? has learned that Győr Mayor András Csaba Dézsi suggested to the government that the much-maligned campus of China’s Fudan University be built in Győr together with the city’s proposed cultural quarter. However, the cultural quarter project is only at the planning stage at the moment, and no concrete government decision has been made or funds allocated to it.

If it goes through, the campus would be built in the Fidesz-led northwestern city instead of the opposition-led capital, where it has faced stiff resistance.

In late November, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony said he had learned that the government had actually given up on the Fudan project. [Telex]

Chinese nationals in Hungary want Ferencváros mayor to rename street names that “offend China”

picture of Krisztina Baranyi

The leaders of 16 chambers of commerce and associations, on behalf of 40,000 Chinese nationals living in Hungary, have sent a letter to Krisztina Baranyi, independent mayor of Budapest’s Ferencváros district (pictured), over the district’s decision last year to rename streets near the government-sponsored Fudan University development project to ones intentionally designed to irritate the Chinese government.

In the letter, the signatories asked the mayor “to reconsider the advantages and disadvantages of the street name situation that has developed, and if possible, make changes to those that are offensive to China.”

Since we are familiar with how our motherland reacts… we have a growing fear that economic relations between Hungary and China will develop in the wrong direction.

-the letter reads.

Mayor Baranyi posted the joint letter on social media, and explained in a long reply why street names that were changed last year will remain as they are.

I want to assure you that I carefully considered the consequences of renaming the streets even before it was announced, and I came to the conclusion and that the benefits would be significant, while the drawbacks, if any, would be minimal.

-Baranyi’s response began.

Four streets around the planned Fudan development project were renamed by the district. The new street names honor figures such as exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Catholic bishop Xie Shiguang, notes the Ferencváros mayor. As she sees it:

The renaming of these public spaces expresses solidarity with those persecuted, while at the same time makes a stand for universal human rights.

As she further explained:

When we rename public spaces in Ferencváros, we are not interfering in China’s internal affairs, as you claim in your letter, but are defending our own interests. First of all, against the corrupt leaders of the Hungarian state, and secondly, because Chinese interests are interfering in our internal affairs.

-Krisztina Baranyi stated in her response to the letter.


EU special committee on foreign intervention condemns Hungarian government for Pegasus and Fudan

picture of EU flags

A European Parliament committee has condemned the Hungarian government for the use of Pegasus spyware and for its plans to set up a campus of China’s Fudan University in Hungary, announced Momentum MEP Anna Donáth on social media. The EP’s special committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU, including disinformation (INGE) voted on Tuesday on the report condemning the government.

The newly-adopted report shows that the problem that we perceive every day in Hungarian public life has now risen to the European level: the Chinese and Russian governments are using the Hungarian government for their own geopolitical purposes and violating Hungary’s sovereignty.

-wrote the opposition politician.

She added that these Eastern dictatorships have used the Hungarian government to conduct disinformation campaigns, thereby destabilizing the region. Fudan University will likewise be another tool in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, she stated.

Anna Donáth also recalled that she and her colleagues in the Renew Europe parliamentary group had called on the leaders of other parliamentary groups to support setting up a committee of inquiry on Pegasus, questioning Viktor Orbán in the European Parliament, and calling him to account for the use of the spyware. The Pegasus issue is about democracy, she believes.

The European Parliament plans to discuss the document in March.

[Magyar Hang]

Karácsony suggests that Budapest may nix the World Athletics Championships after all

picture of Gergely Karácsony

At the end of November, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (pictured) told news channel ATV that support for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest was contingent on two conditions: not transferring funds to the Fudan University Foundation, and ensuring funding for the development of the Healthy Budapest Program. The mayor determined that the conditions had been met, and so the city dropped its resistance to holding the event.

However, the Ministry of Finance’s announcement on December 22 of 755 billion Ft. (US $2.30 billion) in spending cuts in 2022 meant a 13.2 billion Ft. ($40.4 million) reduction in funding available for the Healthy Budapest Program.

As Gergely Karácsony explained to RTL Híradó:

If there are twenty billion forints available to destroy Lake Fertő, then there should also be ten billion for improving health care in Budapest. The capital will support holding the World Athletics Championships on the condition that the Healthy Budapest Program can continue. When the government withdraws these resources with a stroke of a pen, it basically pulls the rug out of hosting the World Athletics Championships.

RTL also contacted the Ministry of Human Resources and was told that: “The Healthy Budapest Program investments are only being rescheduled, which does not mean that they will not be realized.”

The mayor’s comments on Lake Fertő referred to an enormous public procurement project that was canceled on December 10 but recently offered again. According to the tender, the second phase of development will include two motels, a visitor center with restaurant, an area with 682sqm of usable space for water sports, and two large pools together with roads and bridges.

On Monday, Karácsony posted on Facebook that the epidemic proved that more should be spent on health care, especially in Hungary, where the mortality rate was very high compared to other countries. And yet, he reminded his readers that there was still plenty of money for prestige investment projects like the one at Fertő.

“It’s up to us to throw them out and finally choose a government that is about people first,” said Karácsony at the end of his post.

[Magyar Hang, Index]

Biggest stories of the year in Hungarian politics (part 1)

picture of 2021

“2021 wasn’t a quiet year by any means for Hungarian domestic politics,” writes Azonnali, which highlights its choices for the nine biggest political stories of the year.

In the first of a three-part series, we’ll highlight Azonnali’s picks for the top nine stories of the year in Hungarian politics.

Klubrádió loses its broadcasting license

The Hungarian media situation gets worse year-by-year, writes the news site. Whereas Reporters Without Borders ranked Hungary 56th out of 180 countries in 2010 in terms of media freedom, it dropped to 91st in 2021. Countries such as Albania, Hong Kong, and Kosovo now rank higher than Hungary in this area.

The NGO has also called Viktor Orbán an “enemy of the media” – the first EU leader to get this designation, and joining strongmen Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Alexander Lukashenko.

Perhaps it is not surprising then, that the media space narrowed even further when Hungarian courts dismissed Klubrádió’s legal action against the Media Council in February, thus effectively ending the radio station’s terrestial broadcasting.

Citing minor irregularities, the Media Council did not grant an extention of Klubrádió’s expiring broadcast license of the 95.3 FM frequency, a decision which was challenged by station management. Following this decision and its loss in court, Klubrádió continued as an online radio station, while its 95.3 frequency was given to the ATV-owned Spirit FM.

Fidesz leaves the European People’s Party

Almost exactly two years to the day after Fidesz had its membership in the European People’s Party (EPP) suspended on March 20, 2019, which it claimed it did so voluntarily, the party finally left the biggest party in the European Parliament (EP) on March 18 of this year, after Fidesz MEPs individually left the group in early March.

The relationship between Fidesz and the EPP had been strained for a long time, partially because of Klubrádió. However, the government-promoted billboard campaign in February 2019 insulting George Soros and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who had been nominated by the EPP, was the last straw for the transnational party grouping.

After leaving the European People’s Party, Fidesz embarked on setting up a new group in the EP, which was expected to be joined by neo-conservative and far-right parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s Northern League, but these efforts haven’t come to fruition yet.

On December 3, Viktor Orbán said on Kossuth Radio that he hoped to take an important step in forming a new party in the EP at the Orbán-promoted Warsaw Summit, but the summit ended without creating anything durable or concrete. Viktor Orbán then said that no decision would be made on the matter until after the French Presidential election in April 2022.

Although Fidesz has left the EPP, Hungary is still represented in the party through György Hölvényi of KDNP, the smaller party in the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coaltion. The party’s communications director, István Hollik, has said that Hölvényi will try to reform the EPP from the inside.

Opposition rallies against Budapest campus of Fudan University

China’s Fudan University signed a cooperation agreement with the Hungarian National Bank in 2017 to establish a branch university campus in Hungary, and in 2018 the two countries agreed that the Hungarian government would support Fudan’s activities in Hungary.

The agreement turned into a scandal of sorts, however, when journalist Szabolcs Panyi from Direkt36 found out that Fudan would be built on the location designated for the Student City university project, leading to a major reduction in the size of the project and the number of dormitory rooms for students.

Following this development, András Jámbor, the founder and former editor-in-chief of media site Mérce, made Fudan into an issue for the opposition together with the Szikra Movement, which they linked to the increasingly critical housing crisis in Hungary. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony and District IX Mayor Krisztina Baranyi organized protests and demonstrations against Fudan and to defend the Student City project.

Despite this, the government has not retreated on Fudan. It first voted to create a Fudan Hungary University Foundation, which would run the school, then named a director to the foundation in November.

In addition to demonstrating, the opposition has now begun collecting signatures on a planned referendum for the public to vote on the Fudan issue. They will need to get at least 200,000 signatures by mid-January for the referendum to be held at the same time as the Parliamentary elections in April 2022.

…to be continued…

[Azonnali][Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash]

Curia approves of Mayor Karácsony’s referendum questions

picture of people protesting

The Curia, Hungary’s High Court, validated referendum questions on Wednesday that had been submitted in July by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony on Fudan University and the extension of a benefit for job seekers. The Curia upheld a previous ruling from the National Election Commission (NVB) at the end of August, which permitted two of Karácsony’s original five referendum questions.

The questions approved by the Curia are:

Do you agree that the maximum period for the payment of unemployment benefits should be 270 days?

Do you agree that the National Assembly should repeal Act LXXXI of 2021 on the Fudan Hungary University Foundation regarding the transfer of assets to the Fudan Hungary University Foundation?

NVB’s approval of the questions, however, were challenged in September by MP János Volner, who typically votes with the governing parties on all important matters despite being a nominally independent Member of Parliament.

In his submission, Volner referred to the lack of clarity on the question and maintaining obligations to international agreements, but the Curia rejected these appeals and upheld the decision of the National Electoral Commission in its Wednesday decision.

In April, a draft leaked in which the government had estimated the cost of building a Hungarian campus of the Chinese Fudan University at 540 billion Ft. (US $1.67 billion), with construction to be carried out primarily with Chinese raw materials, using Chinese labor, and through a Chinese-provided loan that Hungary would have to pay for.

Following the Curia’s decision on Wednesday, Gergely Karácsony wrote that “collecting signatures can start in a few days,” adding that he hoped to get 200,000 signatures this year.

This is an excellent opportunity for the opposition to get back on the streets and show its strength together, as we saw during the primary elections. It will be a test for us to be able to collect these signatures this year, but not impossible

-wrote Karácsony.

The mayor mentioned over a week ago that the Budapest City Council would not veto the 2023 World Athletics Championships over the Fudan University issue, as the two conditions to avoid the veto had been met. In addition, Mayor Karácsony believes the government and the Chinese have long given up on establishing a campus of the Chinese university in Hungary.

[444][Photo: Hungarians protesting the establishment of a Fudan University campus in Budapest, June 2021]

Karácsony: Gov’t has given up on Fudan project

picture of Gergely Karácsony

The Budapest City Council will not veto the 2023 World Athletics Championships over the issue of setting up a campus of China’s Fudan University in the capital city, Mayor Gergely Karácsony told news program Egyenes Beszéd on Monday evening.

Karácsony said that they had set two conditions to avoid a veto of the major sports event: the city must receive health care subsidies, and the location set aside for the Student City project must not be given to the foundation intending to operate Fudan University in the future.

While the health care subsidies were delayed, they still arrived in the government’s coffers. As for the Fudan project, there is no progress being made on it, Mayor Karácsony stated.

I know for a fact that the government actually let go of this ‘Fudan story’ a long time ago. They let it go because the Chinese let it go, because it’s not worth it to them.

-claimed the mayor.

The capital still needs the Student City project, however, because there are critically few dormitory places in Budapest, according to the mayor. “It’s very hard for rural students who can’t study here because they can’t pay their rent. And it’s very bad for Budapest because the lack of dormitory places is pushing up apartment prices.”

Gergely Karácsony also talked about the money owed to the City of Budapest by the Hungarian government to keep public transportation running. After an agreement signed yesterday between the mayor and László Palkovics, Minister of Innovation and Technology, the state treasury is expected to provide the normative amount of 12 billion Ft. (US $36.8 million) this year to keep the Budapest Transportation Company financially stable.

“I am constantly attacked by the Fidesz members of the City Council for constantly looking for trouble, being provocative, and not sitting at the negotiating table,” stated the Mayor of Budapest.

“But if we do not set ourselves on fire, in the figurative sense of the word, and do not cause a ruckus, pound on the table, demonstrate, and go to the Carmelite Monastery and threaten them, then this money would not come at all.”


MSZP tells Fidesz not to act on Fudan before referendum is held

picture of Fudan University location

Reacting to the news of a new director nominated to the Fudan University Hungary Foundation, the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) stated that Fidesz “wants to secure the area stolen from the Student City project for itself.”

In a written statement, MSZP called on the ruling party not to make any decisions about Fudan University before a planned referendum is held, as “the Hungarian people will have to decide the fate of Fudan, not the Orbán government.”

Mayor Gergely Karácsony has already initiated a national referendum regarding the planned Chinese university. The referendum was approved by the National Election Commission, but the decision was challenged and a decision has not been made by the Curia, the Supreme Court of Hungary.

The aim of Karácsony’s referendum is to repeal a law passed by the pro-government majority on June 15 to prepare for the construction and development of Fudan University in Budapest. The site chosen for the campus had been set aside for a planned Student City project to benefit Hungarian college students.


Budapest City Council hits self-imposed deadline on Fudan

picture of Budapest City Council

After a heated debate broke out in early September over the government’s plans to construct a campus of Fudan University on the site reserved for the Student City project, the Budapest City Council, prompted by action taken by the Democratic Coalition party, gave an ultimatum to the government that expired on Sunday, writes Népszava.

According to the terms of this ultimatum, Budapest will refuse to be the host city of the 2023 World Athletics Championships if any one of the following three conditions is met: the Fudan Foundation is officially awarded the South Ferencváros site originally promised to Student City, the implementation of the previously-adopted Southern City Gate project is deemed “irreversibly impossible,” or if the government does not ensure the payment of a HUF 10 billion tranche of the HUF 50 billion amount previously agreed upon for the development of primary care and outpatient care in the capital by October 31.

However, sponsorship agreements for this year’s Healthy Budapest initiatives have still not been signed, and some of the beneficiary municipalities have not even been contacted about the matter, said health adviser Gábor Havasi in a debate in the Budapest General Assembly last week.


Foundation of Fudan University Hungary nominates new director

picture of Krisztina Bényi

Dr. Krisztina Bényi Bertáné has been nominated as the newly-created director of the Foundation for Fudan University Hungary and will serve alongside Innovation and Technology Minister László Palkovics, who will remain as president of the curitorium overseeing higher educations institutions in Hungary.

According to legal documents acquired by HVG, the new director and Minister Palkovics will not work together, but will operate independently in their own spheres of authority.

Dr. Bényi Bertáné has no work experience in higher education, but was previously employed at the Csongrád County Health Insurance Fund and a country government office before starting work in the Office of the Prime Minister in 2015. She became a deputy state secretary and was responsible for coordinating the development of the Modern Cities and Villages program between 2018 and 2020.

The government previously promised a referendum on the mega investment project for a campus of China’s Fudan University to be constructed in Budapest by Chinese and financed by Chinese loans. Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony requested a referendum on the matter himself, of which the government has not decided on. However, Krisztina Baranyi, mayor of proposed Fudan location Ferencváros, announced at the end of September that her district would attempt to block construction of the Chinese university.