Viktor Orbán in Hanoi

Viktor Orbán, accompanied by his wife and a 98-member delegation, visited Vietnam and Singapore between September 22 and 27. Here I will concentrate on the trip to Vietnam.

We know that Orbán is a great admirer of the authoritarian regime of the People’s Action Party in Singapore, which has won every election since the introduction of self-government. The regime is known for its low level of press freedom and restrictions on civil liberties and political rights. So, the affinity Orbán feels toward the city state is genuine. In fact, he alluded to the similarities of the Singaporean and Hungarian political systems in his press conference held after his meeting with Prime Minister Li Hsien Loong. But in Singapore Orbán could only ask the rich businessmen of the Lion City to come and invest in Hungary.

The situation is different in Vietnam, where Hungary would like to sell and invest. This is a far more interesting topic, as far as I’m concerned. Also, I was lucky enough to happen upon a long, detailed description of the trip in an English-language Vietnamese source, which contained information the Hungarian government failed to share with the Hungarian public.

In connection with the Vietnamese trip, the Hungarian media has been preoccupied with two topics. First, the luxury VIP charter plane that the Hungarian delegation used and, second, the construction of a 500-bed hospital for cancer patients in Can Tho, the fourth largest city in Vietnam, with an interest-free Hungarian loan of $60 million. The first was greeted by the public as an unnecessary luxury; the second, with outrage.

After the discovery that the plane used by the Hungarian delegation was an Airbus A340 VIP with 100 lie-flat seats, the non-governmental media took every opportunity to show the luxurious interior of the aircraft. Zoom.hu even provided a brief video of the interior, including the restroom. Of course, the public wanted to know how much this cost the taxpayers, but the figures are not available. Journalists did learn from Bertalan Havasi, press secretary of the prime minister, that the plane was not leased. Rather, the seats were individually purchased. Businessmen who accompany Viktor Orbán and government ministers normally buy their own tickets. This time only four ministers traveled to Hanoi and Singapore, but it is unlikely that the rest of the seats were occupied by paying Hungarian businessmen because from a Vietnamese source I learned that “more than 40 businessmen” accompanied the prime minister and the four cabinet members. That probably means that a lot of lower-ranking members of the government traveled on that plane.

Once the excitement subsided over the luxury plane, people started focusing on the construction of the hospital in Can Tho, a project that, given the state of Hungarian healthcare, elicited some four-letter words from a normally more sanguine blogger, a cancer victim, who told his sad story of what he had to go through in order to receive prompt medical attention in Budapest.

Actually, the story of the Vietnamese hospital is quite curious. Orbán announced the construction of the hospital as a brand new agreement between the two countries, but the truth is that it has been on the back burner for exactly eight years. On September 25, 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai signed an identical agreement with Prime Minister Nguen Tan Dung during the latter’s visit to Budapest. It was also an interest-free $60 million loan, to be paid back in 18 years. In return, Hungarian businessmen would be the general contractors of the project.

A few months after the agreement was signed, elections were held in Hungary and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz won. It was during the second Orbán government (2010-2014) that bidding on the project began, a process that was not exactly transparent. As 24.hu found out, the tender, despite its size and international significance, was announced only on the website of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Békés County. Only two companies applied. Five years ago the winners, a consortium of Novotrading Medical Kft. and KÉSZ Group, won the tender. The latter advertises itself as “one of Hungary’s largest construction companies,” which “built the Nation’s Main Square.” Novotrading Kft. is a bit more mysterious since it is registered as a wholesaler of pharmaceuticals and medical products.

But something went very wrong. KÉSZ Group might have done a decent enough job on the reconstruction of Kossuth tér, but building a hospital in Can Tho was a very different cup of tea. The city is situated in the Mekong Delta, and it is built on marshy land full of canals. It has even a “floating market” that can be approached only by boat. Structures must be built on piles. Apparently because of a faulty calculation, the strength of the piles was misjudged. Even before the construction began, the mistake was discovered and the tender was cancelled. Although the Vietnamese were still interested, the Orbán government abandoned the project.

Whether Hungarian construction companies are today better equipped to deal with the special project of building a large hospital on piles in the Mekong Delta I have no idea, but the Vietnamese are still enthusiastic about the project, especially since Hungary, in addition to the $60 million, promised a further loan of $300 million, which may be increased in the future.

And finally, a few tidbits that Viktor Orbán and his entourage failed to pass on to the Hungarian people. First, Viktor Orbán’s trip was an important event in Hanoi. At least this is the impression I got from the very enthusiastic description of the visit by vietnamnet.vn. Orbán was received by the president, the president of the national assembly, the prime minister, and the general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong. He is the most powerful person in Vietnam since, in addition to being the general secretary of the party, he is also the secretary of the Central Military Commission and the de facto head of the Politburo.

General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong receives Viktor Orbán / Source: vietnamnet.vn

Thanks to a Vietnamese news site, we know that Nguyen Phu Trong gave him “a warm welcome” and thanked him for “the Hungarian people’s valuable and efficient assistance to Vietnam’s liberation cause and nation building.” The party secretary “showed his support for stepping up the ties between the two governments and the ruling parties.” He also “spoke highly of the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the two ruling parties and expressed his hope for furthering the ties with the Communist Party of Vietnam and heightening the bilateral relations in the coming time.” Well, well. What a surprise. Viktor Orbán is signing a memorandum of understanding between Fidesz and the Vietnamese Communist Party. The man whose government tried to banish the red star from Heineken’s logo and forced the issue of the red star all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, where his government roundly lost the case. Or, the man who insists that he rebuilt the train between Felcsút and Alcsútdoboz just because “the communists destroyed it.” President Barack Obama received Nguyen Phu Trong in the Oval Office in 2015, but surely he didn’t sign any “memorandum of understanding” with the general party secretary of Vietnam. Hungary’s prime minister didn’t have any such compunctions.

Orbán is at home with the extreme left as well as the extreme right. His sympathies for the extreme right were most likely demonstrated in a message he posted on his Facebook page while still in Hanoi: “Budapest gratulál // Budapest gratuliert!” TASS, the Russian news agency, was so intrigued by this “laconic” message that it devoted a whole article to it. As they wrote, “Viktor Orbán mysteriously congratulated Germany on the last elections to the Bundestag. It remains unknown whom Orbán was congratulating: German Chancellor Angela Merkel … or the right-populist party Alternative for Germany.” I believe that TASS had an idea what the right answer was. So do I.

September 28, 2017
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gdfxx
Guest

From Amnesty International’s recent assessment of Vietnam:

Overview

Severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly continued. The media and the judiciary, as well as political and religious institutions, remained under state control. Prisoners of conscience were tortured and otherwise ill-treated, and subjected to unfair trials. Physical attacks against human rights defenders continued, and prominent activists were subjected to daily surveillance and harassment. Peaceful dissidents and government critics were arrested and convicted on national security charges. Demonstrations were repressed, with participants and organizers arrested and tortured. The death penalty was retained.

Guest

Exactly how Orbán wants Hungary to be ruled …
But we know of course that this is what “illiberal Hungarian Christians” (did I miss anything?) really want – not the freedom that Satan Soros sells via Amnesty International!

Gabor Toka
Guest

Vow. Reading is good, though it can turn painful.

Michael Kaplan
Guest

Thanks for publication of this article. Orban’s visit to Hanoi is vintage Warsaw Pact stuff. As one who is familiar with the sad state of Hungarian hospitals, the idea that Hungary is building one in Vietnam is crazy. Like Trump, Orban continues a policy of deception and selfishness.

Ferenc
Guest
OV checking if Petike signs on the proper place re 5-point star: for OV&Co the color could make all the difference… Lazar ‘csiki’ J.was probably not interested in visiting (no good Vietnamese beer…) More ‘starry’ pictures at http://vietnam.vnanet.vn/english/vietnam-hungary-strengthen-traditional-friendship/333458.html from the Vietnamese page linked in Eva’s post: “The two PMs agreed to … increase trade and investment…especially in fields of Hungary’s strength and Vietnam’s demand such as a.o.environment protection and renewable energy.” Ahum, Hungary’s strength in those two fields??? Anybody any clue??? Reading above line, my first thought in relation to Hungary and energy was, a recent M1 news report about an energy conference or exhibition, it was mainly showing Rosatom pointing out the 4 future ‘renewable’ energy sources, being: sun, wind, the third I forgot, but the 4th being [drum roll]…….. nuclear (of course.., Rosatom remember…). Above agreement about ‘renewable’ energy might have nuclear connections? Googled “rosatom Vietnam”: agreement this summer that Rosatom will build a nuclear technology center in Vietnam… from wiki: “The supremacy of the Communist Party [of Vietnam] is guaranteed by Article 4 of the national constitution.” Raises the question if in the ‘imagined’ future OV&Co would ever dare similar… or just wouldn’t need it… more at… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Next up VO into the publishing business… the Magyar ‘Red Book’… just waiting for the quotations….it’ll be ‘free’ at all kiosks.

Observer
Guest

Birds of feather – Azerbajan, Kazahstan, Iran, Erdogan’s Turkey, Vietnam and of course Russia. Add Saudi Arabia. What about Belarus to boost the list of dictators where Orbàn feels at home and where he drags the country to.

Observer
Guest

Birds of a feather:

Add the congratulations to the German AfD.
How can anyone dispute the fascistoid political nature of this character?

Observer
Guest

Taking about the fascist regime here:

A small inn owner in a Hungarian village agreed to offer his 4 – 5 rooms for a week long rest to children of the very few refugees granted assylum by the Hungarian government.
Some viligers slashes his tires and he received life threats.

PM Orban today found “nothing objectionable to people expressing their opinion loud and forceful”.

Does this mean that there will be nothing objectionable if someone threatened to shoot this Orban character, expressing opinion in the same way?

Ferenc
Guest

For who wants to hear with own ears what OV had to say about this, see the video linked in my comment – http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/09/28/viktor-orban-in-hanoi/#comment-138790

Guest

Observer, did someone from Fidesz really congratulate AfD?
They are still in EPP together with the CDU, so that would be crazy!

PS and a bit OT:
As I expected the AfD is already in partial dissolution – it will be “interesting” to watch them perform in parliament.

Observer
Guest

Wolfi

Orbán posted the Budapest gratuliert on his page without addressee in typical double talk. Since
– the only significant winner was AfD. and
– the Fid Chairman would not congratulate the CDU/CSU with these criptic two words, would he?
Pretty clear, but can be denied too.

Ferenc
Guest

in a country OV just visited: death sentence in grand corruption trial!
…corruption… trial… could he get nervous…

Reuters, today: “A court in Vietnam sentenced to death a former chairman of state -run PetroVietnam on Friday after finding him guilty in a mass trial of 51 officials and bankers accused of graft and mismanagement that led to losses of $69 million.
The death sentence for ex-PetroVietnam chairman Nguyen Xuan Son was the first time in years it had been given to such a senior former official and comes amid an intensifying corruption crackdown and maneuvering within the ruling Communist Party.”
more at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vietnam-security/vietnam-court-sentences-to-death-petrovietnam-ex-chairman-in-mass-trial-idUSKCN1C40KW

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Member

In my own experience, having spent a lot of time in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is that the average non-politicised Vietnamese citizen enjoys a much higher level of personal and economic freedom than their Hungarian counterpart. As long as you don`t actively organise against the State or attempt to become “too big” economically, then the State and all its apparatus leave you alone.

Compare with our own dictatorship here, where the Fidesz fascists want to control every aspect of our lives. Their pathetic little hate propaganda campaigns are everywhere, their pathetic obese leader attempts to tell us what to believe, what to read, what to watch, what sports to play, what people we should associate with.

Ok, on paper, Hungary is still a democracy (in so far only as there are still elections and parties are able to organise), Vietnam a dictatorship but in reality, Vietnam is a freer place for the vast majority of the population than a country supposedly obeying the democratic norms of the EU

gdfxx
Guest

Common now. I think in Hungary it is still possible to have free elections. Try that in Vietnam, then you’ll see their democracy. On a recent trip to Hanoi, I saw a huge line at Uncle Ho’s former house, similar to the one you could see at Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow. Streets to government buildings are still guarded as they used to be in East European capitals…

Member

“Try that in Vietnam, then you’ll see their democracy.”

Try operating a bar, restaurant or any kind of business in the Budapest 5th District without having to pay off the Rogan Mafia…. see how far you get then! Try operating a church in Hungary that doesnt preach the state-sponsored bigotry instead of the gospel. Or try finding a state channel whose anti-refugee broadcasts dont remind you of the anti-Semitic nazi propaganda of the late 30s.

I am not saying Vietnam is a role model just that in many regards its citizens are given much more economic and personal freedom than here.

On the scale of democracy with say Finland or Sweden at one end and with the likes of, say, the Middle East theocracies at the other, then Hungary is much closer to the likes of the latter than the former.

With regards the amount of “security” given to state buildings and the fascist hierarchy… have you seen the amount of cops that surround Fat Viktor anytine he deigns to walk the streets? I genuinely see no difference in that regard between Vietnam and Hungary (which let`s keep reminding ourselves is theoretically an EU democracy).

gdfxx
Guest

I don’t dispute the above. However, I am convinced that if the majority would want it, they could vote Orban and Fidesz out of office. It seems the majority does not want that.

I doubt that in Vietnam that would be possible.

That’s all I wanted to say.

Member

Would the fascists meekly walk out of office in Hungary if they were voted out?
Again, I am not defending the political system in Vietnam, just I pointing what I think is the illusory nature of “democracy” in Hungary.

gdfxx
Guest

First of all, I think that the “fascist” label is used too lightly nowadays.

Second, although I cannot prove it, my guess is that Orban and Fidesz would allow for the transfer of power if they lost an election. Otherwise, their EU membership would be in serious danger. I doubt that they would dare to do that.

Member

If Orban loses, he loses access to Eu funding and quite possibly (depending on the size of the defeat) will face along prison sentence for his various crimes. That being the case, refusing to transfer power would be the better of two bad options for him. But obviously this is conjecture.

Regarding the “fascist” label, according to Merrian Webster the definition of fascism:
“….a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”.
Apart from (possibly) the last feature, then what else is different with the Orbanist regime? It is fascist. He is a fascist.

gdfxx
Guest

What are the manifestations of the “severe economic and social regimentation”, caused by the Orban regime? And as far as the last feature is concerned, in my opinion it is the most important one. Anyway, if we continue this debate, soon every line is going to consist of one letter…

Marty
Guest

Fun facts.

There are an estimated 100,000 ethnic Vietnamese living in the Czech Republic. Even officially there are 58,000 of them. Currently over 500,000 (!) registered foreigners live in the Czech Republic.

Member

That sounds like an awful lot. Could it be that a big percentage of those foreigners are Slovaks?

Marty
Guest

Yes, Ukrainians and Slovaks are the biggest groups. But there are many from Western Europe and Vietnam is a big group too.

The demographic trajectory of the two countries (Czech Republic and Hungary) are very different. In the mid-1980’s their population was the same.

Since then Hungary lost about a net 1 million (if you include people actually living abroad, and despite immigration from neighboring countries), while the Czech Republic grew by a few hundred thousands (due to immigration mainly, from various places).

But the Czech Republic is basically a Western country, geographically and culturally (Prague is much more to the West than Vienna) so it really attracts immigrants.

Ferenc
Guest

OV back in town
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lVZ90df7Y0
EZT A SZEMÉTLÁDA!!
And the same to each and everyonevoting for such!!

Don’t know what happened in Őcsény, here an interview – http://hirtv.hu/egyenesen/elszabadult-indulatok-1404389
PS: before my next visit to HU, I’ll get me a T-shirt like that!!

Ferenc
Guest

the Hungarian fish rots from OV’s head down!

Migration Aid after latest ‘developments’: “We will bring the refugees to Felcsut too”
More at http://migrationaid.org/en/we-will-bring-the-refugees-to-felcsut-too/

Ha Magyarorszagon leszek, en Menekult leszek is!!
When I’m in Hungary, I’ll be Refugee also!!

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