China-Hong Kong bridge nears completion

A 19-mile (30-km) bridge that will connect Hong Kong and China across the Pearl River estuary is almost completed.

The bridge has more steel than 60 Eiffel Towers and has gone through nearly eight years of construction. The cost of the project has also ballooned to some $19 billion.

Critics see predict it will struggle to become viable and be unlikely to draw the 40,000 or so vehicles a day as forecast.

Chinese officials hope it will boost the economy at a time when tension is high in Hong Kong.  

The port city is divided over Beijing’s refusal to allow full democracy, and increased interference from the mainland despite a guarantee of autonomy.

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, there have been many projects aimed to integrate the port city with the Pearl River Delta.

This has stoked some unease in Hong Kong.

Some question the large sum of money that could have gone into health, housing, and education. Others are worried they are seeing an erosion of Hong Kong’s independent identity.

“(They) are not only thinking about it as only a physical bridge. It is, in fact, a bridge trying to unite mainland with Hong Kong, or more—even more—it is a way to blur the position of Hong Kong,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka Ki.

The bridge was first proposed in the late 1980s. It was opposed at the time by Hong Kong’s British colonial government, wary that the development might draw the city closer to communist China.

Most of the construction on the bridge is expected to be finished by year-end.