China Opens Mega Bridge to Hong Kong 10/23 06:42
ZHUHAI, China (AP) -- China on Tuesday opened the world's longest
sea-crossing bridge linking Hong Kong to the mainland, a feat of engineering
carrying immense economic and political significance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over a ceremony in the city of Zhuhai
to open the 55-kilometer (34-mile)-long bridge linking it to the
semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Digital fireworks exploded on a
screen behind him as leaders of the three cities watched.
The $20 billion bridge took almost a decade to build while incurring major
delays and cost overruns. It includes an undersea tunnel allowing ships to pass
through the Pearl River delta, the heart of China's crucial manufacturing
Its opening will cut travel time across the delta from several hours to just
30 minutes, something China hopes will bind the region together as a major
driver of future economic growth. Heavily regulated traffic using permits
issued under a quota system will begin flowing on Wednesday.
The bridge forms a physical link between the mainland and Hong Kong, an
Asian financial hub that was handed over from British to Chinese control in
1997 with the assurance it would maintain its own legal and economic system for
That carries major political significance for Xi's administration, which has
rejected calls for political liberalization in Hong Kong, sparking fears
Beijing will clamp down further on civil liberties before the end of the "one
country, two systems" arrangement in 2047.
The bridge's opening also comes a month after the inauguration of a new
high-speed rail link from Hong Kong to mainland China that runs along a
different, shorter route. That line has vastly decreased travel times but also
raised concerns about Beijing's growing influence because mainland Chinese law
applies within part of the line's Hong Kong terminus.
To Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong democratic politician, the bridge's political
significance outweighs its practical usefulness.
"It's not exactly necessary, because Hong Kong is connected to mainland
China in every way already, by land, by air, by sea," Mo told The Associated
"But they still need it as a political symbol or icon to remind Hong Kong
people ... that you are connected to the motherland, with this very grand
bridge. It's almost like an umbilical cord."
In Zhuhai, however, sentiments revolved around economic growth and national
Airline pilot Liu Gang said he'd been eagerly anticipating the opening of
the bridge, calling it a symbol of the mainland's increasingly close ties with
Hong Kong and Macau.
"It'll bring us even closer together, make us more flexible, economically
and in many other ways. We're now one family," Liu said Monday afternoon while
strolling along a walkway and shooting photos of the structure.
Luo Fengzhi, who works in real estate, cited the bridge as evidence of
China's growing economic and engineering prowess.
"For Chinese people, this makes them feel proud," she said. "I hope that
every patriotic Chinese person can come and see this great feat of engineering,
and I welcome foreigners to come and see for themselves as well."