China opens the world's longest sea-crossing bridge

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Zheng Xiaosong died on Saturday evening

Hong Kong - The world's longest sea bridge was officially inaugurated on Tuesday by China's President Xi Jinping with supporters hailing it as an engineering triumph and detractors calling it a controversial white elephant. Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping led the opening ceremony in Zhuhai.

Hong Kong residents will only be granted a licence to cross into Zhuhai by auto if they meet highly selective criteria, including holding certain mainland government positions or making major contributions to charities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The US$20 billion structure is 20 times as long as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mind you, that's not to say the bridge has been without controversy, amid many delays, overrunning budgets, corruption prosecutions and even the deaths of some construction workers.

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But the reasons behind the investment may not be purely economic, as the bridge will bring Hong Kong, which has a separate system of governance, closer into Beijing's sphere of influence.

Since its inception, it has been one of the most criticised initiatives in Hong Kong, where residents believe it is a poor use of taxpayer funds.

Proponents of the bridge say it will significantly cut journey times between the cities, enabling commuters and tourists to easily move around the region.

The bridge's unusual undulating structure is created to keep open vital navigation channels in the Pearl River Delta, which boasts some of the world's busiest ports.

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An aerial view shows construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge in June 2016 in Zhuhai in China's Guangdong Province.

Around 26 miles, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge consists of a main bridge over Chinese mainland waters, with attached border checkpoints and roads connecting the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Zhuhai City in Guangdong, China, and the Macao Special Administrative Region.

Hong Kong authorities have defended the bridge's HKUS$120 billion (US$15.31 billion) price tag, saying it would consolidate Hong Kong's position as a regional aviation and logistics hub.

Hong Kong's secretary for transport and housing, Frank Chan Fan, said: "The bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau". Shuttle buses cost $8-$10 for a single trip depending on the time of day.

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While officials said the bridge is vital to the Greater Bay Area, members of the public have said otherwise. It's also been described as one of the world's most unusual roadways, reportedly boasting special features like yawn-detecting cameras and blood pressure-monitoring machines.

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