When you think of Hungary, the landlocked country in Central Europe, what do you imagine?
For many in the United States, Hungary, home to some 9.7 million people, has become a Rorschach test of sorts. Left-leaning commentators view it as a place where democracy died a long time ago. On the other hand, more right-leaning commentators view Hungary as a place where religious and family values are honored. Thanks to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, they argue, wokeism, the bane of so many Americans’ existence, has been successfully neutered.
Hungary, it seems, is everything the United States should be, and can be. It’s not. In fact, Hungary has far more in common with China than it has with the United States.
Recently, the Hungarian government was accused of using spyware against its own people. The government, according to reports, specifically targeted investigative journalists, employing some of the world’s most invasive spyware. Some might say, well, what about the NSA’s attempts to spy on Tucker Carlson? Even if the NSA did spy on Carlson, that doesn’t excuse the actions of the Hungarian government. Two wrongs, as they say, don’t make a right. A healthy society requires both privacy and freedom of speech. In Hungary, both are under attack.
Like Hungary, China is another country where journalists are monitored closely. They are intimidated and arbitrarily detained, abused, both verbally and physically. Any dissenting voices are quickly silenced; activists are separated from their families, berated and beaten, and often punished with lengthy prison sentences.
In Hungary, the government tightly controls the majority of media outlets, either directly or indirectly. Independent journalism is no longer possible. Two of the United States’ finest independent journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, wouldn’t survive in Hungary. They also wouldn’t survive in China.
Human Rights Abuses in Hungary
In March, according to Humans Right Watch (HRW), after the Hungarian government “declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic and the parliament, where the ruling party has a two-thirds majority,” an Authorization Act was quickly passed. This act granted the government “unlimited power to rule by decree indefinitely and without parliamentary oversight.” Even more alarmingly, the highly questionable law “also included a new criminal offense.” The publication of any misleading facts “pertaining to the pandemic” would now be met with criminal charges. That sounds a lot like authoritarianism to me.
Since March, the Hungarian government, according to HRW, has made further amendments to the country’s criminal code. The spreading of “fake news” or the willingness to engage in “fear mongering” during the pandemic now results in a five-year prison sentence. Such draconian measures should alarm anyone who cares about freedom. What, exactly, constitutes “fake news?” As for “fear mongering,” where does one draw a line? With authoritarian regimes, as history has shown us, the lines are always drawn arbitrarily. Laws are bendable and always subject to change. Kangaroo courts replace actual courts.
What About Religious Values?
Contrary to popular belief, Hungary is not a Christian utopia. The author David French calls the country “a religious wasteland.” And he’s not wrong. Only 17 percent of Hungarians regard themselves as “highly religious.”
What About Emigration and Immigration?
I have a number of Hungarian friends, none of those who actually live in Hungary anymore. They are educated, hard-working, decent people, and although they love their country, they were left with no option but to leave. Good paying jobs, they tell me, are extremely difficult to find.
Almost one-third of Hungarians currently struggle with the threat of poverty.
Hungary is known—and often lauded—for its anti-immigrant stance. However, as the aforementioned David French writes, “Hungary has a profound problem with emigration. This problem is now so severe “that it’s contributed to a worker shortage that’s required the Orbán regime to quietly welcome more immigrants.” Yes, more immigrants. A reality that is, as French notes, “somewhat at odds with the regime’s anti-immigrant” stance.
The criticisms do not end there. In Hungary, discrimination and acts of physical violence against women are extremely common. As Amnesty warns, although “the law prohibits gender-based discrimination,” Hungarian women “continue to experience widespread discrimination on the grounds of their sex/gender and for being a mother.” Yes, for being a mother. The discrimination exists “both in the workplace and in the labor market more generally.” In China, discrimination against women, both in the workplace and the labor market, is also a very real problem. In the United States, meanwhile, women continue to thrive.
Budapest’s close ties to Beijing are as obvious as they are undeniable. In June, when the EU attempted to take action against the Chinese regime for its crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Hungarian government refused to cooperate. Furthermore, a number of years back, the Hungarian government signed a rather controversial deal with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 2024, Fudan University, one of China’s most prestigious academic establishments, will open its first overseas campus in Hungary. Who will pay for the first ever European-based Chinese university? The Hungarian people, of course.
To add insult to injury, as DW reports, the new campus will be built at a site “that was supposed to be dedicated to affordable housing for students from low-income rural Hungarian families.” The Hungarian people are understandably furious, and who can blame them?
Their country, where women are treated as second-class citizens, is a desperate place to live. Hungary and China have a number of things in common, and none of them are positive. To romanticize Hungary is to engage in a form of fantasy projection, where subjective feelings are mistaken for objective reality. For inspiration, Americans should look elsewhere.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.