The world’s longest sea bridge is set to open this week, linking the cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the Chinese mainland as part of a broader contentious plan to integrate the special administrative regions into China.
The $20bn Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially opens on Tuesday in a ceremony that Chinese president Xi Jinping is reportedly planning to attend.
Officials are billing the 55km bridge as a key part of the Greater Bay Area plan, a campaign to connect Hong Kong and Macau to 11 Chinese cities to form a high-tech region to rival Silicon Valley.
The bridge links Hong Kong’s Lantau island to Zhuhai on the southern coast of Guangdong province and the gambling hub of Macau, a popular tourist spot for Chinese visitors.
“The bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau,” Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing, Frank Chan Fan, said on Friday.
“The collaboration between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in terms of trade, finance, logistics and tourism will be strengthened. Hong Kong will assume a more proactive role in the development of the Greater Bay Area.”
However, private cars will only be able to use it after applying for a special permit.The crossing will mostly be used by private shuttle buses and freight vehicles. The bridge is not served by public transport.
Since its inception, it has been one of the most criticised initiatives in Hong Kong, where residents believe it is a poor use of taxpayer funds. Conservationists have blamed bridge construction for falling numbers of the threatened Chinese white dolphin. Others say the bridge is another way for Beijing to bind the autonomous administrative regions closer to China.