mandag 12. juli 2021

Orbán wants a Chinese university in Hungary. Opponents see a chance to turn his nationalist rhetoric against him

A derelict plot on the banks of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, might seem like an unusual epicenter for a political earthquake. But that was before Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's populist government announced a controversial plan for a prestigious Shanghai university to open its first overseas campus there in 2024 -- which Hungarians would apparently pay for. Now protests over the future of this nondescript site have galvanized Hungary's opposition, and united them in an attempt to topple Orbán's ruling party at next year's general election.

Since Orbán swept to power 11 years ago, there have been plenty of demonstrations in Budapest against his assault on democratic freedoms. The self-styled defender of Christian values in Europe has rolled back civil liberties, ranging from migrant and LGBTQ rights to media freedom, as well as judicial and academic independence. Not that it's hurt Orbán's political fortunes. His right-wing Fidesz party has enjoyed landslide election wins, with no serious political challenger outside Budapest. But the proposed Fudan University campus has become a potent issue.