China’s New Bridge to Hong Kong—a Symbol of Britain’s Demise

How long before the territory is fully assimilated into the authoritarian mainland?

China unveiled on October 23 the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge ever built. It spans more than 34 miles and connects mainland China to the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

At the opening ceremony in the port city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province, President Xi Jinping declared the $20 billion bridge officially open. China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted him describing it as a bridge of “connected hearts” and “fulfilled dreams.”

Containing more than 400,000 tons of steel—enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers—the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is presented as a showpiece of Chinese might and innovation. The structure took a decade to build and is designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. It places the three cities less than an hour’s drive from one another. A four-mile section of the bridge also dips into an undersea tunnel, allowing vessels to pass through the bustling shipping lanes above. And since Hong Kong drivers follow the British tradition of driving on the left side of the road while those on the mainland drive on the right, the structure includes a complex merging point that switches vehicles to the appropriate side.

But the bridge’s purpose goes beyond just showcasing China’s impressive engineering capacity. It is also an undeniable symbol of Beijing’s increasingly ambitious geopolitical goals. It stands as a physical manifestation of China’s resolve to tighten control over Hong Kong, the South China Sea and beyond.

One Country, Two Systems

When Great Britain handed Hong Kong over to China 21 years ago, most of the city’s 6.4 million people were uneasy about the transition. They had been separated from the mainland by 156 years of ideological and institutional differences, and most were descendants of families who had fled the rule of the Communists to live under British rule in Hong Kong as refugees. With the handover, they were understandably worried about being swallowed up by the authoritarian government of the mainland.

But Beijing promised that Hong Kong would retain its distinct identity under a rubric called “one country, two systems.” This model stipulated that even though Hong Kong was again part of China, for at least 50 years, Beijing would allow Hong Kong to maintain its economic polices, and Hong Kong could enjoy what its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, called a “high degree of autonomy.”

In the early years, the “two systems” model was abided by. Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army maintained a low profile in Hong Kong. Law enforcement agencies from the mainland had no jurisdiction in the territory. And mainland officials refrained from giving public speeches there.

But in 2003, after half a million Hong Kongese assembled to protest against a security law that the local government was pushing, the authorities in Beijing took action. The Chinese government began a campaign calling for patriotism among Hong Kongese and said the territory must be governed by leaders who “love the country and the city.”

Another bombshell came in mid-2014 when the Chinese State Council published a white paper clarifying “one country, two systems.” It said that the Chinese government in Beijing has “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and that the territory was allowed only whatever authority to run its affairs that were sanctioned by Beijing. The Chinese government also imposed electoral reforms: For the 2017 election for Hong Kong’s top civil position, the people could vote only for candidates who had been preapproved by the Chinese government.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongese marched in the streets, demanding an unrestricted choice of candidates. The protests clogged the city streets for weeks, with brawls erupting several times between demonstrators and police. Some onlookers thought the protests would spread into the rest of China and possibly threaten the Chinese Communist Party (ccp). But as the weeks went by, the number of protesters fell. It was soon obvious that, protests or not, Beijing would not budge and the Communist Party was the only real authority in Hong Kong.

This sobering truth became more evident the next year when several staff members of Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay Books vanished, abducted by Chinese agents for publishing humiliating books about the private lives of ccp authorities.

In 2016, the ccp prevented the seating of two politicians who had modified their swearing-in oath in protest against mainland rule. Then last year, Chinese security agents rushed into a Hong Kong hotel and abducted one of China’s most powerful billionaires, whose whereabouts are still unknown. Just last month, Hong Kong’s security bureau caved in to pressure from Beijing by banning a small pro-independence political party. Meanwhile, the Chinese military presence in Hong Kong is gradually becoming more visible and active.

These developments affirm fears that Hong Kong is quickly losing the autonomy that China promised it. They show that the cherished freedoms that distinguished Hong Kong from the rest of China are disintegrating. With the new bridge now providing China one more powerful way to assert control over Hong Kong, many analysts wonder how long it will be before the territory is fully assimilated into the authoritarian mainland.

An Invaluable Sea-Gate Lost

China’s intensifying drive to control Hong Kong is partly due to the island’s strategic location at the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. This means Hong Kong functions as one of the sea-gates allowing access to the South China Sea.

In the July 2016 Trumpet, editor in chief Gerald Flurry highlighted the way China’s tightening hold on the territory has aided its efforts to rule the South China Sea. He wrote, “Britain actually gave the South China Sea prize of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Now that U.S. military presence in the area has been drastically reduced, China is claiming the entire South China Sea as its own! … Whoever controls these vital sea-gates controls one third of the world’s maritime commerce” (“China Is Steering the World Toward War”).

Mr. Flurry explained that this development is of great significance in terms of Bible prophecy.

Genesis 22 records some astonishing promises made to the patriarch Abraham. One of them says that his descendants, mainly the peoples of Britain and the United States, would come to “possess the gate of his enemies” (verse 17). The context and companion passages of this scripture make clear that this is about sea-gates, such as Hong Kong, which allowed Britain to control the seas for so long.

Bible prophecy also forecast that the British would later lose control of the sea-gates they had possessed: “And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 28:52).

Mr. Flurry explained that these prophecies are for the present day: “This warning is not just for an ancient nation,” he wrote. “It is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel! Two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: America and Britain. … Don’t believe me—you need to prove this truth for yourself. We will be happy to send you a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which contains abundant proof.”

Britain’s handover of Hong Kong was tragic for the British and also for the Hong Kongese. This is becoming clearer with each of Beijing’s authoritarian pushes and each move toward further integrating the territory into the mainland—such as the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

To know what to expect from the increasing power and ambition of Xi Jinping’s China, please read Mr. Flurry’s article “China Is Steering the World Toward War!