China: President Xi Jinping launches world's longest sea bridge
Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, the world's longest sea bridge, amid attempts by Beijing to have greater control over its semi-autonomous regions. The 55km-long bridge links Hong Kong's Lantau island to Zhuhai and Macau, across the waters of the Pearl River Estuary. The sea bridge includes a snaking road bridge and an underwater tunnel. Here's more.
Xi announced opening of bridge, but didn't address the gathering
Xi officially announced the opening of the bridge at a ceremony, which was also attended by Hong Kong's and Macau's city leaders. The event took place at a new port terminal in Zhuhai. "I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially open," he said standing in front of a screen playing digital fireworks in an indoor ceremony. He, however, did not address the audience.
Not the first infrastructure linking Hong Kong to China
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is the second major infrastructure project linking Hong Kong to mainland China. Last month, a high-speed rail link was opened as a part of Beijing's strategy to create a "Greater Bay Area" economic hub. As per the critics, however, the new sea bridge is just another way to integrate Hong Kong into China.
About the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge
The construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge began in 2009 but has been delayed and faced budget overruns, corruption prosecutions, and even deaths of construction workers. Also, the legislators and transport companies in Hong Kong have complained they had been "left in the dark" while the mainland authorities had "hastily" announced the launch ceremony last week. The bridge will open to traffic tomorrow.
Engineering marvel or politically-driven white elephant?
While those supporting the sea bridge project have called it an engineering marvel that will promote business and reduce travel time, others see it as a politically-driven, costly white elephant. According to Hong Kong's transport department, as the main bridge section falls in mainland territory, Hong Kong cars and drivers "must comply with the laws and regulations of the mainland" while traveling over it.
The 'rules' for using bridge for Hong Kong residents
In order to be able to travel on the bride by car, Hong Kong residents must meet "highly selective" criteria, like holding certain Chinese Government positions or making major contributions to charities in the province of Guangdong. Other residents will need to ride on by coaches and buses. Understandably, Hong Kong residents are unhappy with the restricted access on the bridge.
However, Zhuhai residents welcomed the bridge
"I think this bridge will bring great convenience to the whole area of Zhuhai, Hong Kong, and Macau, and promote the economic development of the whole area of the Pearl River Delta," a Zhuhai resident, Dang Zheiliang, told AFP