Hungary ’s top court on Wednesday threw out a bid by Budapest’s mayor to hold a referendum on a planned campus of China’s Fudan University in the city. The Hungarian Constitutional Court said in a statement that holding a referendum on Fudan would be “unconstitutional”. “According to the [constitution], a national referendum on an obligation arising from an international treaty cannot be held,” it said in the statement published on its website. Voters would have been asked if they wished to repeal a law adopted last year by parliament – dominated by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party – that gave a green light to the plan. In a Facebook message, Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony said he would still try to find a way to “allow the residents of Budapest to have their say in the matter”. “The majority of the court’s members had obviously fulfilled the political expectations of Fidesz,” he said. According to a deal signed between Orban’s government and the Shanghai-based university, Fudan’s Budapest campus, its first in Europe, would be a 500,000 sq metre (5 million sq ft) complex. Orban argued that a prestigious outpost of Fudan University would permit thousands of Hungarian and international students to acquire high-quality qualifications. But the complex – originally planned for completion by 2024 but now likely to be delayed – has sparked street protests and opposition party accusations that Orban is forcing an unwanted project on the city and endangering a prior plan to build student accommodation in the same area. Karacsony said the campus would also cost hundreds of billions of forints for Hungarian taxpayers. Orban’s landslide re-election paves way for even closer Hungary-China ties A state secretary said in December that the government was legally obliged to report to parliament by the end of 2022 on preparations for the project and the estimated costs of its implementation. According to project documents leaked to Hungarian investigative journalism site Direkt36.hu, most of the Fudan project’s estimated €1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) cost would be covered by a Chinese loan to Hungary of €1.3 billion. Karacsony, who has been city mayor since 2019, has renamed streets around the campus site “Free Hong Kong Road” and “Uygur Martyrs’ Road” to highlight Chinese human rights issues. In August, Hungary’s National Election Committee approved his referendum bid, which was also rubber-stamped by the country’s Supreme Court. That decision was then appealed at the Constitutional Court leading to Wednesday’s ruling. Critics also say Orban’s courting of Fudan, which deleted references to “freedom of thought” from its charter in 2019, fuels concerns about academic freedom in Hungary.