Beijing’s new infrastructure binds Hong Kong to mainland

String of new rail and real estate plans will deepen integration with Greater Bay Area

A boom in infrastructure projects linking Hong Kong to the surrounding Pearl River estuary is blurring the already hazy border separating the former British colony from mainland China.

Beijing, which took possession of Hong Kong in 1997, sees the city — and particularly its global financial services industry — as a linchpin of the Greater Bay Area, an 11-city megalopolis comprising China’s manufacturing heartland including nearby Shenzhen, Macao and Zhuhai. This region’s collective gross domestic product was 12.6 trillion yuan ($1.97 trillion) in 2021, surpassing South Korea’s. Projects like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, a 55-km system of tunnels and the world’s longest sea bridge that opened in 2018, is just one piece of an increasingly complicated jigsaw of infrastructure linking Greater Bay Area cities. Others include rail lines, bridges, special economic zones and massive real estate projects that open up vast economic opportunities for Hong Kong.

Critics, however, say the projects are doing with infrastructure what Beijing is simultaneously doing with legislation — gradually eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy. “It is clear that they really want to dissolve the border,” said Ho-fung Hung, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of City on the Edge: Hong Kong under Chinese rule.

The city was returned to China in 1997 after 156 years of British rule, and was meant to be self-governed. But gradually Beijing has ended any semblance of the “one country, two systems” formula that had been agreed on at the time of the handover. That culminated in a new security law promulgated in mid-2020 that all but erased the special administrative region’s sovereignty.

“In the long run … we can’t expect the territorial boundary for Hong Kong to remain unchanged”
Sonny Lo, political scientist

Hung said economic and social integration between Hong Kong and the mainland began as early as 2003, when the free trade Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement was signed by Hong Kong and Beijing.

Official plans to economically integrate the southern cities came in 2017, when Hong Kong signed a framework agreement to deepen cooperation with Macao and Guangdong province.

Keep reading it here


China, Hong-Kong, dispute