21 Arrested for 'Falsified Concrete Test Reports' on HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

By Matthew Bossons and Sky Gidge, May 23, 2017

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The world’s longest sea-crossing bridge, the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, may face even more delays as the project reels from the arrest of 21 individuals alleged to have falsified concrete test reports.

According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the Special Administrative Region’s Independent Commission Against Corruption mounted a code-named operation that resulted in the arrest of “two senior executives, two senior site laboratory technicians, 12 site laboratory technicians and five laboratory assistants from the contractor, which was working for the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD).”

The same story asserts that the department may have been employing the aforementioned contractor since early 2013. 

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In Hong Kong, Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung has stated that the government will investigate the construction and ultimate safety of the bridge in light of the detentions. 

The arrests are the result of a slew of troubling allegations regarding the SAR’s section of the project, including that lab techs may have substituted concrete samples set for testing with “high strength materials” in a supposed case of misconduct dating back to 2015.  

More disturbing yet, two senior laboratory workers are believed to have approved the deceitful reports that were sent by the contracted company to the CEDD.

And, if that wasn’t enough to make you nervous about venturing onto our planet’s longest sea-crossing bridge, a number of the detained individuals also face allegations of not conducting tests within the compulsory time limit.

“It was revealed that when some of the tests were not conducted within the set time frame in compliance with the contract requirements, the site laboratory technicians and laboratory assistants might have adjusted the times on the testing machines to cover up the irregularities,” read a press release by the anti-graft body released Tuesday.

What the accusations mean as far as bridge safety goes is up for debate, former President of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers Greg Wong Chak-yan is quoted as saying the following in a SCMP story that ran on May 23: 

“If the concrete is far below standard and is used in one-third or two-thirds of the bridge columns, of course it would pose a safety risk and the government needs to take extra time to replace them. That would be the worst thing that could happen. Otherwise simple measures could be taken in remediation.”

Secretary for Development Ma has stated that if the situation is serious enough, “measures and follow up actions” will be taken, although he does not have “any information in hand now.”

All of the 21 people arrested in the case have been released on bail.

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Originally slated to open at the end of 2016, the project has been hit by a number of delays, specifically in the HKD35.9 billion Hong Kong portion now under investigation. The bridge was pegged to open in December of this year, although that assessment has been drawn into question in light of this week’s worrying allegations.

This echoes a 2013 scandal on the mainland side of the border when construction at the Ping'an building, currently set to be the world's fourth tallest, was halted in Shenzhen because of companies using sea sand to make concrete. The scandal saw eight companies suspended from business, according to a 2013 Bloomberg report.

[Images via news.xinhuanet.comSouth China Morning Post]

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