Budapest’s mayor has named four roads in the city to pay tribute to opponents of China’s authoritarian regime, including “Free Hong Kong Road.”
The move, marked by an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, was made in protest at the Hungarian government’s plans to build a new campus for Shanghai’s elite Fudan University in its capital.
Two roads referenced regions where Beijing has been accused of trampling on rights and freedoms: “Free Hong Kong” and “Uyghur Martyrs” road. Two others were named after political dissidents — “Dalai Lama,” Tibet’s spiritual leader, and “Bishop Xie Shiguang,” a Catholic Priest who ran China’s underground church.
The four newly-named roads surround the planned site of Fudan’s first European campus, in Budapest’s Ninth District. Most of the site is owned by the Hungarian state, while its surrounding roads belong to the city.
Budapest’s liberal mayor Gergely Karácsony and mayor of the Ninth District Krisztina Baranyi told reporters the new roads were a message to the Hungarian government and Beijing.
“The signs bear the names of the persons and people who have been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party,” Karácsony said on Wednesday. “This is… a stand for solidarity and freedom, which Hungary has been committed to for 30 years.”
“China and Hungary are worlds apart when it comes to human rights and solidarity,” he said.
The mayor also slammed the investment deal, which will cost Hungarian taxpayers 1.5 billion euros (HK$14.2 billion), saying the university would only serve the elite and not the majority of Hungarian students.
The two politicians are campaigning for a student city to be built on the site instead.
Karácsony announced in mid-May he would stand against incumbent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in elections next year.
Fudan Hungary University
The planned “Fudan Hungary University” is set to be built by a state-owned Chinese construction company. It will use Chinese labour and materials and be mostly funded by a Chinese loan, according to a deal between the Hungarian government and the university.
Hungary has signed a €1.3 billion loan from China in order to build the new campus, local investigative news site Direkt36 reported in April.
Baranyi has launched an online petition against the planned campus and will hold open consultations across the city on Friday. A protest against the planned university is set to take place on Saturday.
The protest comes amid concerns over what some consider as China’s growing influence in the East European nation.
Hungary was the sole nation to block a European Union statement in early May accusing Beijing’s of trampling on Hong Kong’s freedoms. The previous month it had blocked a EU statement condemning the city’s national security law.
Tensions have grown between Beijing and many Western powers in recent months over its human rights record.
The US, Canada and the UK parliament have labelled Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in its Xinjiang region as “genocide,” and accused the party of breaking its promises to safeguard Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and civil liberties. Beijing maintains it has committed no human rights violations and accuses the foreign governments of bullying.