Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Zhuhai on October 23 to officiate the inauguration of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau Bridge (HKZMB), which will formally open to the public next week. Several media outlets are reporting that it is unlikely Xi will extend his visit to either Macau or Hong Kong.
Having faced numerous delays in its decade-long construction, the 55-kilometer monumental structure and longest sea-crossing bridge in the world will finally open this month.
The HKZMB is expected to enhance logistics and transportation between the 66 million people living in the Greater Bay Area, heralding a period of deeper economic integration between nine cities in the Pearl River Delta area and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
Although Beijing’s Liaison Office has not issued an official clarification, it is widely believed that the bridge will open on October 23, the day of the ceremony.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP), citing an unidentified source, said that local authorities in the Pearl River Delta were “still awaiting confirmation from the mainland authorities,” adding that “there may be a last-minute change.”
The short notice ahead of the bridge’s opening ceremony is likely due to security concerns in relation to the president’s visit. Security officials in Zhuhai have reportedly been preparing for Xi’s visit for several weeks.
However, the timing of the announcements has caused some irritation in Hong Kong. Coach operator One Bus Hong Kong Macau, which runs land transport services between the two special administrative regions, complained to the SCMP about the short notice ahead of the opening.
“At about 5 p.m. today, we received notice from the government that there would be a ceremony in Zhuhai,” a spokesperson from the company told the Hong Kong newspaper. “We’ve asked [Hong Kong] Transport Department officials whether it means the bridge will open the same day. They had no clue.”
“This is a mega project. All the stakeholders have been expecting it with great anticipation. We hope to have ample time to make manpower arrangements and to promote our new coach services,” the spokesperson said. “At such short notice and without any details, how can we make the necessary logistic arrangements? It will cause chaos and great inconvenience to the passengers.”
Xi’s exact travel details remain unknown at this stage, though media reports suggest that his visit may begin as early as Saturday and could include other parts of Guangdong province, reportedly Sun Yat-sen University in the provincial capital of Guangzhou. There has been no indication that Xi intends to visit the special administrative regions of Macau and Hong Kong.
Xi previously inspected the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in July last year, concluding a three-day visit to Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China and attend the swearing-in ceremony of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government.
Xi last visited Macau in December 2014 for the 15th anniversary of Macau’s handover, during which time he stressed the need for the gambling enclave to diversify into other economic sectors. DB