HONG KONG (Reuters) – The world’s longest sea bridge was officially opened yesterday by Chinese President Xi Jinping, linking up Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland’s River Delta cities to form the Greater Bay Area.
Mr Xi declared the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially open at a ceremony in southern mainland city Zhuhai. The crossing opens to traffic on today.
Hailed as an engineering wonder, the US$20 billion bridge is the central plank in China’s master plan to create and develop its own bay area to rival those in San Francisco, New York and Tokyo.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which took nine years to build, is made up of nearly 35-km (22-mile) bridge and road sections and a 6.7 km (4-mile) tunnel, and has been dubbed the longest “bridge-cum-tunnel sea crossing” in the world.
It will link the financial hub of Hong Kong to the relatively less developed western reaches of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province, as well as the former Portuguese colony and gambling hub of Macau.
Mr Xi said nothing during the inauguration of the bridge yesterday morning other than to declare it officially open to a burst of fireworks projected onto a screen behind him.
Mr Xi’s visit to the southern economic powerhouse of Guangdong had been shrouded in secrecy, with state media making little mention of his itinerary before he showed up for the bridge opening.
Vice premier Han Zheng said the bridge would help drive China’s strategic blueprint for a “Greater Bay Area” around the Pearl River Delta modeled on other global economic dynamos like San Francisco Bay and Tokyo Bay.
“The bridge stimulates the interaction and trades between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, facilitates the development of the Greater Bay Area and boost the comprehensive competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta,” Mr Han said.
The bridge was first proposed in the late 1980s, but it was opposed at the time by Hong Kong’s British colonial government, which was wary of development that might draw the city closer to Communist China.