China opens world's longest sea crossing bridge connecting Hong Kong to mainland

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The bridge spans 55 km, including its access roads, and was inaugurated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Claudio Mo is a Hong Kong politician. A ferry was the only way to reach the mainland. The bridge is part of Beijing's "Greater Bay Area" Scheme, aiming to provide better passenger and freight land transport between Hong Kong and Mainland China, integrating the Guangdong province into a better business hub.

Chinese leadership still expects the bridge to bring together millions upon millions of people, making it easier to navigate through southern China.

The bridge, which snakes across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong's Lantau island and passes Macau's glitzy casinos, will begin operations on Wednesday when some bus services begin.

President Xi Jinping presided over the inauguration early on Tuesday but said little except to declare the bridge officially open to a burst of fireworks projected onto a screen behind him.

It was opened with a one sentence speech by Xi, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

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"[The bridge] links Hong Kong to China nearly like an umbilical cord", Claudia Mo, a lawmaker who supports greater democracy in Hong Kong, told CNN's Lazarus in May.

Travelers need to go through a complicated system to get permits from all three cities - a process that may take almost two weeks - and will also have to get insurance in all the cities. Only 300 Hong Kong cars can enter Macau, and 600 Macau-licensed cars can drive to Hong Kong.

In order to actually drive on the bridge, you must apply for a special permit with prohibitively high requirements for the average driver.

"It is very odd".

Most people will need to travel on coaches and buses. "The Central Authorities also attach great importance to it".

"I am pretty sure that we would never earn that [construction cost] back".

The sea bridge connects three key cities and is 55 kilometres long. Others have said its main goal is symbolic, ensuring Hong Kong is physically connected to the mainland.

There have also been concerns about the environmental impact. Nineteen workers have also been charged with faking concrete-test reports.

But critics call the project a white elephant.

In terms of sheer size, it is a record breaker - the longest ocean bridge and tunnel system in the world.

The completion comes as China faces increasing pressure from the United States over trade issues.

A flurry of infrastructural development, however, has served to physically bind the regions in a more tangible way.

In Zhuhai, however, sentiments revolved around economic growth and national pride.

China will mark the anniversary in December of the "reform and opening up" that was launched in 1978 under the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, moving away from a Maoist command economy and toward more market-oriented policies that transformed the country into the world's second-largest economy.

Hong Kong is at the center of that plan, with deeper infrastructural links that will ease travel particularly from the mainland into the city. That island will be created close to the new sea crossing.

The interior and exterior of the Hong Kong immigration hall.

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