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World's Longest Sea Crossing Bridge Officially Opened By The President of China

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Hong kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge
The President of China Xi Jinping officially opened the world’s longest sea crossing bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China on Tuesday, at a time when Beijing is tightening its grip on its semi-autonomous territories.

In a one line address, the President of China said, "I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge officially open", as digital fireworks exploded on a screen behind him in an indoor ceremony, before leaving the stage immediately. Xi did not address the audience.

The 55 - kilometre ( 34 mile ) sea crossing bridge, which includes a snaking road bridge and underwater tunnel took six years of preparations and nine years to build. It links Hong Kong with the southern mainland city of Zhuhai and the gambling enclave of Macau, across the waters of the Pearl River Estuary.

Beijing’s plan is to fully integrate Hong Kong and Macau; which is known as the "Vegas of Asia" and the world’s biggest gambling hub, with the Pearl River Delta region, a giant manufacturing hub, into what Beijing is calling the Greater Bay Area, a tech and innovation-focused center to rival Silicon Valley.

Construction on the mega bridge began on 15 December 2009 and is expected to reduce travel time from Hong kong to mainland China from three hours to 30 minutes.

Major work on the bridge consisted of a 22.9km long main bridge, a 6.7km long tunnel and an artificial island off the bridge, which is considered the most technically demanding part of the whole construction.

The project is a feat of engineering carrying immense economic and political significance.

In one section, the bridge transitions to an underwater tunnel for 7 kilometres to make way for ships to cross and planes to take off from the nearby Hong Kong International Airport.
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Map of World's Longest Bridge
The structure is supported by pillars embedded in the seafloor, cables hanging from giant towers, and two artificial islands. According to an engineer with the project, the bridge is designed to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquakes and typhoons. It was built using 400,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers.

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 rather one more way to integrate Hong Kong into China as fears grow that the city's cherished freedoms are being eroded.

The bridge’s opening also comes a month after the inauguration of a new high-speed rail link from Hong Kong to mainland China that runs along a different, shorter route. That line has vastly decreased travel times but also raised concerns about Beijing’s growing influence because mainland Chinese law applies within part of the line’s Hong Kong terminus.

However, To Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong democratic politician and lawmaker, the bridge’s political significance outweighs its practical usefulness.

“It’s not exactly necessary, because Hong Kong is connected to mainland China in every way already, by land, by air, by sea,” Mo said.

“But they still need it as a political symbol or icon to remind Hong Kong people: that you are connected to the motherland, with this very grand bridge. It’s almost like an umbilical cord.”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the bridge would help transform Hong Kong from a "connector to a more active participant".

Some Hong Kong social media comments accused Lam of "selling out" to Xi and portrayed her as Piglet to his Winnie the Pooh, as she was wearing an all pink outfit.

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