Controversy surrounding the proposed bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau has intensified after a key proponent of the project contested opposition views from an adviser of tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung. Wang Tseng Hsiang, an ally of bridge proponents Hopewell Holdings chairman Gordon Wu Ying-sheung and Shun Tak Holdings chairman Stanley Ho Hung-sun, yesterday reiterated his support for the project and emphasised its importance to Hong Kong's future economic development. Last week, Mr Fok's adviser, Ho Ming-sze, questioned the necessity of the bridge, its cost-effectiveness and environmental impact. Mr Ho raised fears on the impact a bridge would have on the environment and said the introduction of a departure tax would have an adverse effect on cross-border travel and Hong Kong's economic development. The government has proposed levying an $18 tax on people crossing the Hong Kong border by land or sea, and a $100 tax on each private vehicle. The fees are expected to raise $1 billion a year. In response, Mr Wang said yesterday: 'Everyone has freedom to express his or her views in Hong Kong. I simply want to point out the benefits of the bridge to Hong Kong's future.' Rejecting Ho Ming-sze's doubts, Mr Wang said it would relieve Hong Kong's unemployment problem by creating jobs and boosting tourism and foreign investment. He said the bridge was crucial to Hong Kong because the shift of manufacturing to the Pearl River Delta meant the special administrative region was playing the role of 'the shop in the front' and the delta 'the factory at the back'. Allaying fears that the bridge would not be cost-effective, Mr Wang was confident about raising the necessary funds at affordable costs. The Hong Kong government favours a Y-shaped bridge linking Tai O on Lantau Island, Macau and Zhuhai. At an estimated $13 billion, the bridge has attracted interest from Kajima Corp, one of Japan's largest contractors, Mr Wang said. He assumed that if Kajima won the contract, it would have to shoulder the responsibility of extra costs. 'There is absolutely no risk that the investors of the bridge and the Hong Kong government will have to shoulder any costs over and above $13 billion,' Mr Wang said. He also corrected Ho Ming-sze's claim that the annual interest cost alone would be anywhere between $600 million and $1 billion. Mr Wang said five unnamed investors had agreed to invest in the bridge by committing a combined $5 billion. The remaining $8 billion would be raised by loans, probably in low-interest Japan.