Court awards compensation to would-be Tibetan protesters in Hungary

April 16, 2015

Hungarian state radio just reported that a Hungarian court awarded damages to two Tibetans who were detained by police in 2011 to prevent them from demonstrating against visiting Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao (see my post). The police must post an apology on its website.

But in the meantime, Hungary has adopted a developmental state ideology that, like China’s, sees dissent as disruptive, hostile and serving the interests of the nation’s foreign enemies. Consider three facts. The ministry of foreign affairs has been renamed the ministry of foreign economic relations and foreign affairs and declared that diplomats would henceforth be evaluated based on their ability to attract investment. NGOs receiving foreign funding have been subjected to raids by tax police, and some have had their accounts frozen, causing a conflict with Norway and a spat with the EU. And Jobbik (“The Right One”), a party vocally critical of the government, has risen to second place in opinion polls. Jobbik is a chauvinistic, anti-Semitic and anti-EU party whose attacks on the government are phrased in terms of national defense rather than individual rights, and as such have been buoyed by the government’s own rhetoric along the same lines.

Such developments — a rise of developmentalism combined with popular nationalism and a broadenin crackdown on civil activism, rooted in a successful campaign to convince people that such activism is inimical to the nation — echoes recent trends in Russia, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, and China itself. In some respects, it can be seen as a slow shift towards what has famously been called the “Beijing consensus,” although I still think the term is inaccurate because it suggests that China’s model can be applied elsewhere. It cannot, but its elements are.