China opens longest sea bridge, linking Hong Kong to mainland

China on Tuesday opened the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge linking Hong Kong to the mainland, a feat of engineering carrying immense financial and political significance.

Chinese language President Xi Jinping presided over a ceremony in Zhuhai to open the 55-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which hyperlinks the town to the semi-autonomous areas of Hong Kong and Macau. Digital fireworks exploded on a display behind him as leaders of the three cities watched.

The $20-billion US bridge took virtually a decade to construct whereas incurring main delays and price overruns. It contains an undersea tunnel permitting ships to go by the Pearl River delta, the center of China’s essential manufacturing sector.

Its opening will lower journey time throughout the delta from a number of hours to simply 30 minutes, one thing China hopes will bind the area collectively as a serious driver of future financial development. Closely regulated visitors utilizing permits issued underneath a quota system will start flowing on Wednesday.

The bridge types a bodily hyperlink between the mainland and Hong Kong, an Asian monetary hub that was handed over from British to Chinese language management in 1997 with the peace of mind it could preserve its personal authorized and financial system for 50 years.

‘1 nation, 2 methods’ underneath stress

That carries main political significance for Xi’s administration, which has rejected requires political liberalization in Hong Kong, sparking fears Beijing will clamp down additional on civil liberties earlier than the top of the “one nation, two methods” association in 2047.

The bridge’s opening additionally comes a month after the inauguration of a brand new high-speed rail hyperlink from Hong Kong to mainland China that runs alongside a special, shorter route. That line has vastly decreased journey instances but additionally raised considerations about Beijing’s rising affect as a result of mainland Chinese language regulation applies inside a part of the road’s Hong Kong terminus.

To Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong democratic politician, the bridge’s political significance outweighs its sensible usefulness.

Chinese language President Xi Jinping, centre, prepares to go away after the official opening of the China-Zhuhai-Macau-Hong Kong Bridge in Zhuhai, China, on Tuesday. (Andy Wong/Related Press)

“It isn’t precisely vital, as a result of Hong Kong is linked to mainland China in each means already, by land, by air, by sea,” Mo instructed The Related Press.

“However they nonetheless want it as a political image or icon to remind Hong Kong individuals … that you’re linked to the motherland, with this very grand bridge. It is virtually like an umbilical wire.”

In Zhuhai, nevertheless, sentiments revolved round financial development and nationwide satisfaction.

Airline pilot Liu Gang mentioned he had been eagerly anticipating the opening of the bridge, calling it an emblem of the mainland’s more and more shut ties with Hong Kong and Macau.

“It’s going to convey us even nearer collectively, make us extra versatile, economically and in lots of different methods. We’re now one household,” Liu mentioned Monday afternoon whereas strolling alongside a walkway and capturing pictures of the construction.

Luo Fengzhi, who works in actual property, cited the bridge as proof of China’s rising financial and engineering prowess.

“For Chinese language individuals, this makes them really feel proud,” she mentioned. “I hope that each patriotic Chinese language particular person can come and see this nice feat of engineering, and I welcome foreigners to come and see for themselves as properly.”


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