You might have seen more than a few news articles about the world’s longest sea bridge that has just opened in Hong Kong. However, despite some heaping praise upon the bridge as a design triumph, there are many who see it as just an extension of Beijing’s control over the island. So what is the real deal here?
The bridge links Macau and Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, which many have seen as a move to link the special administrative regions into China. This is making a lot of people very nervous about the future of Hong Kong and its relationship with China.
The purpose of the bridge is not only to make crossing into China easier. It is also part of a wider plan, called the Greater Bay Area plan, which aims to connect eleven cities in China to Hong Kong and Macau. This is mainly for business and commerce reasons. Needless to say, it will also boost tourism as Macau is especially popular for Chinese tourists who want to gamble. Labelled as a boost to the development of the bay area, Chinese officials are hailing this as a long-awaited logistics manoeuvre which will help tourism, trade, finance and communications.
Is it more than that?
If the bridge is a link for all of the above, then why can it only be used by drivers with a special permit? Public transport is currently not allowed to pass and so the bridge will mostly be used for private vehicles and freight trucks. All with a pass to travel, of course.
The bridge has also come under fire for being a rather unnecessary use of taxpayers funds. There have also been cries of outrage from conservationists who believe that the bridge and subsequent construction work has depleted marine life in the area. Above all, the greatest fear appears to be the control that China will be able to exert over Hong Kong and Macau.
Many critics of the bridge have claimed that it serves no need apart from a political one. There are other bridges due to be built that will reduce the need for transit across this particular bridge. Deeming it a waste of time and money, the bridge has grown to be more and more controversial as time has gone by.
Indeed, there have been nine workers who have died and over two hundred who have been injured since building began in 2009. There have been numerous delays, budget issues and plenty of safety issues. Some subcontractors were fined for endangering workers whilst many have complained about the shoddy quality of the bridge itself.
However, it will connect Hong Kong, Macau and China easily and whether it will improve relations between the three is yet to be seen. After millions being spent and years of work being put into its building, the bridge is a marvel to look at. That being said, only the future can tell how this will affect Hong Kong’s status and connection to China.