hong kong – The leaders of Hong Kong and China’s Guangdong province Tuesday agreed to move ahead with a plan for a bridge to link their territories with the gambling enclave of Macau.
After talks with Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa told reporters they would form a preparatory committee to study the project’s environmental and economic impacts.
“This is a very important step forward,” Tung said.
The group, whose ﬁrst meeting is scheduled for Aug 30, will report to the central Chinese government and apply for ﬁnal approval, he said, reiterating that mainland authorities were supportive of the project.
No ﬁnal decision has been made.
The bridge will connect Hong Kong with the Guangdong city of Zhuhai and Macau.
Ofﬁcials here hope it will help revitalize Hong Kong’s depressed economy by linking it with booming cities in neighboring southern Guangdong province.
Once a manufacturing stronghold, Hong Kong’s economy became reliant on the service industry after many factories were driven north into China by rising land and labor costs.
Struggling with rapid deﬂation and record unemployment, Tung has said the territory’s economic future now lies in providing logistics and other professional services to the industrial base it lost to Guangdong.
The proposed 29-km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge has been discussed for years with a cost estimated at $2 billion.
Ofﬁcials have declined to say whether a ﬁnal decision had been made. However, Tung said last week Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had expressed his support during a recent trip to Beijing, saying the central government recognized the bridge project as “crucial to Hong Kong’s future economic development.”
He also said he expected “a series of more concrete items” to be ﬁrmed up at Tuesday’s meeting.
A former British colony, Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.