China’s President Xi Jinping officially opened the world’s longest sea bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China Tuesday, at a time when Beijing is tightening its grip on its semi-autonomous territories.
The 55-kilometre (34-mile) crossing, which includes a snaking road bridge and underwater tunnel, links Hong Kong with the southern mainland city of Zhuhai and the gambling enclave of Macau, across the waters of the Pearl River Estuary.
Xi presided over an inauguration ceremony attended by Hong Kong’s and Macau’s city leaders at a new port terminal in Zhuhai.
“I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially open,” Xi said in a one-line address, as digital fireworks exploded on a screen behind him at the indoor ceremony, before leaving the stage immediately.
Supporters of the multi-billion-dollar bridge promote it as an engineering marvel that will boost business and cut travel time, but critics say it is one more way to integrate Hong Kong into China as fears grow that the city’s cherished freedoms are being eroded.