BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Budapest city officials are planning to rename streets in an area where a Chinese university loyal to China's Communist Party is due to open a branch, in a signal of protest and solidarity with the victims of human rights abuses by Beijing.
The new names will be Uyghur Martyrs’ Road, Free Hong Kong Road, Dalai Lama Road and Bishop Xie Shiguang Road, and they are expected to receive formal approval by the city in the next few days, according to the MTI news agency.
Budapest's liberal Mayor Gergely Karacsony said Krisztina Baranyi, the mayor of the city’s 9th district, where the Chinese university is to be built, announced the plans on Wednesday, saying they sought to honor those who have suffered at the hands of the Chinese state.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Uyghurs are an ethnic Muslim group that some Western countries say is the victim of genocide and the late bishop was the target of religious repression.
The move comes as part of a larger effort to oppose plans by conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban to host an elite Chinese university campus in the nation's capital.
Hungary signed a strategic agreement a few weeks ago with the Shanghai-based Fudan University on opening a campus in Budapest by 2024 that will enroll international students. It would be the school’s only foreign outpost, and the first Chinese university campus in the 27-nation European Union.
The $1.8 billion investment will be paid by Hungary with the help of a loan from a Chinese bank.
The mayor and other critics argue the massive investment places an undue financial burden on Hungarian taxpayers and is indicative of Orban’s increasing ties to autocracies in Beijing as well as Moscow.
Mayor Karacsony says the project also raises national security concerns, since the university has pledged its loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.
Baranyi has said she will hold a local referendum to block construction of the campus.
A demonstration is planned for Saturday where Karacsony intends to give a speech opposing the university.