Best columns: Europe
Trying to silence the scholars
Reka Kinga Papp
Hungary’s far-right government is waging a war on thought itself, said Reka Kinga Papp. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has “already robbed the state universities of their autonomy.” His government has severely cut those social science disciplines that would be most useful in dealing with the massive refugee crisis on our borders—such as studies of other cultures—and replaced them with state-sanctioned political science. Now “these thugs” want to “bring down the last academic bastion”: the Central European University. The university is funded by U.S. billionaire George Soros, the Hungarian- born philanthropist who is Orban’s nemesis because he finances organizations that promote human rights and fight corruption. So the government wrote a bill to shut down the university, on the grounds that foreign-funded institutions present a danger to national security. Many Hungarians reject this antiintellectual claptrap, and thousands of them protested in the streets to keep the university open. But the bill passed parliament this week and now looks set to become law. Orban’s government exhibits “many elements of classical fascism,” and thought control is key to its survival. I would say it is trying to return us to the Middle Ages, but that “would be an insult to medieval emperors like Barbarossa,” who valued universities. Orban, by contrast, wants to keep his people ignorant.
Facing the wrath of China
The killing of a Chinese citizen by French police has unleashed rage in China, said Manon Dognin. The Chinese are furious over the killing of Liu Shaoyo, a 56-year-old father of five who was shot dead by French police in his Paris apartment last week. And they have every right to be. Police say Liu threatened them with a blade, but family members say Liu had scissors in his hand because he was preparing fish for dinner. It’s the latter theory that the Chinese believe. “French police officers treat Chinese residents like dogs,” say posts on Chinese social media sites. “They have slaughtered our compatriot!” There are calls for a boycott of French goods and demands for an official apology from the French government. Some social media users are even demanding the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. This outpouring of anger has continued for days, and given that China heavily censors the internet, that means Beijing is permitting its people to demonize the French. Four days after the shooting, a Frenchman was stabbed walking on the streets of Shanghai. It’s unclear whether the attack was meant as revenge for Liu, but the French consulate has warned French people in China to be careful. Beijing apparently has “no intention” of discouraging anti-French sentiment.