A major new bridge connecting Zhuhai, in China's southern Guangdong Province, with Hong Kong and Macau is nearing completion. The final 180-tonne bridge segment was lifted into place yesterday, a milestone in the construction of the world's longest cross-sea bridge.

The new highway, in its seventh year of construction, consists of 23 kilometers of bridges, 7 kilometers of tunnels, and a number of artificial islands, CCTV reports.

Although the main structure is now completed, work is still needed before the bridge opens, including surface paving and anti-corrosion coating.

The three regions involved in the project have made a joint investment of more than HK$100 billion (US$12 billion) into the project.

Many in Macau are anticipating major economic returns from the bridge's opening.

An associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University, Henry Gao, said the bridge will create stronger ties between Macau and other regions, giving Macau the resources to diversify its economy.

Lau Chun Kong (劉振江) the international director at Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate investment management company, told the American Chamber of Commerce in Macau that the bridge was the “right move” for the hotel industry, saying Macau will attract more tourists willing to invest in luxury experiences.

Wong Weng Chou (黃穎祚), an assistant professor at the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the Macau University of Science and Technology, however, says the bridge will not necessarily help the tourism industry. He says that if Macau cannot compete with rival resort spots in Asia, the bridge cannot “make [tourists] stay in Macau.”

Opposition against the bridge has also been strong.

Last October, Apple Daily validated claims that the project was dumping wastewater into the ocean, threatening the environment of the endangered Chinese White Dolphin.

For many in Hong Kong, the project reflects a major expenditure in taxes not supported by the general population, Initium reports. Several community associations have formed in the years since construction began to protest against what they see as the destruction of their way of life. The localist movement has even labeled the project as Beijing’s tool for “forced integration” (粗暴融合).

The project adds to the frustration Hong Kongers feel in their inability to control public policy. Issues such as income inequality, house prices and increased immigration have fueled tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing. Aside from frustration in the political process, Hong Kongers also fear the dilution of their culture and identity, which is also apparent in the Mandarin versus Cantonese debate in the region.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White