Pressure Grows as Hungary Adopts Law Targeting George Soros’s University

Observers say the law is part of a clampdown on free expression and an effort to create a powerful enemy — in this case, Mr. Soros, a financier who embodies, for Mr. Orban, the influence of global capitalism.

“Almost the only success story the government has at home, I think, is that it built a fence and is not letting in migrants,” said Andras Loke, president of the board of Transparency International’s branch in Hungary, referring to Mr. Orban’s hardline policy on refugees. “That is to say the people like it, and they say, ‘Finally, somebody has done it.’”

Mr. Orban has also embraced the term “illiberal democracy,” essentially arguing that majority rule is more important than minority rights. “Here is a government that proclaims itself as illiberal, and if it says it’s illiberal, liberals are its natural enemy, especially if they are backed by funds the government has no control over,” Mr. Loke said, referring to organizations funded by Mr. Soros.

The Soros Foundation and later the Open Society Foundations, both founded by Mr. Soros, have financed projects in Hungary and the region in areas like health care and the study of democracy. Some of the organizations have found themselves — unwillingly — at the center of attention and framed as part of the opposition.

In pointing out corruption and the erosion of freedoms under Mr. Orban’s government, nongovernmental organizations are simply doing what they have always done, said Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, an opposition lawmaker who in the 1990s was a member of Fidesz, Mr. Orban’s conservative political party. “They don’t see themselves as opposition or political organizations, but as civil rights defenders.”

In the last two years, Ms. Szelenyi said, the government has advanced a “conspiracy theory” arguing that Mr. Soros, who “embodies global capital, has been exerting his influence, through…

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