The city set to infuriate China with provocative street names

·3-min read

China doesn't take kindly to criticism about its human rights abuses, but one city has found a novel way of shaming the country accused of crushing democratic freedoms and committing genocide on a religious minority. 

The mayor of Budapest has announced he will rename the streets in an unusual protest against plans to build a Chinese university in the city.

The planned street names appear innocuous enough, but they would no doubt rankle Beijing. 

China president Xi Jinping
China has come under increasing international pressure over its human rights record. Source: Getty

The Hungarian capital plans to rename the streets around the proposed Chinese institution to commemorate alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party.

One street will be called "Uyghur Martyrs' Road" after the mainly Muslim ethnic group in the country, which China has systematically imprisoned and been accused of prosecuting a slow-moving genocide against

Another street will be named after the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, labelled a dangerous separatist by Beijing.

A third will be called "Free Hong Kong Road" while a fourth street will be renamed in honour of a Chinese Catholic bishop who was jailed.

China university would 'put in doubt' our values: Mayor

The renamed streets will converge at an area where China's Fudan University is planning to open a campus offering masters programmes in liberal arts, medicine, business and engineering for 6,000 students with 500 faculty.

"This Fudan project would put in doubt many of the values that Hungary committed itself to 30 years ago" at the fall of Communism, said Mayor Gergely Karacsony, a liberal opposition figure who plans to run next year to unseat Viktor Orban, Hungary's right-wing prime minister.

Activists hold a Tibetan flag next to a sign in a street renamed 'Dalai Lama', near the planned site of a Chinese university. Source: Reuters
Activists hold a Tibetan flag next to a sign in a street renamed 'Dalai Lama', near the planned site of a Chinese university. Source: Reuters

Orban's liberal opponents accuse him of cosying up to China, Russia and other illiberal governments, while angering European allies by curbing the independence of the judiciary and media.

The government has defended the project: "The presence of Fudan University means that it will be possible to learn from the best in the world," Tamas Schanda, deputy minister for innovation and technology said last week.

According to an opinion poll by liberal think tank Republikon Institute published on Tuesday (local time), 66 per cent of Hungarians oppose and 27 per cent support the idea of the campus.

'Confucius Institutes' and Australia

Despite Australia's own "human rights violations" relating to its highly criticised offshore detention program, the federal government and its Western allies including the US, New Zealand and the UK have been more willing to speak out on China's human rights abuses in recent years.

Chinese education facilities, typically referred to as Confucius Institutes, have also caused unease in Australia over concerns of growing Chinese influence in Australian universities and the teaching of propaganda

The education institutions are seen as part of China's growing expanse of so-called "soft power" as it challenges US hegemony in the global order.

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