Two workers have been arrested in northern China after local authorities said they dug out a section of the country’s Great Wall with an excavator, leaving a gaping hole.
The pair, a 38-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, caused “irreversible damage” by using construction machinery to widen an existing breach and create a shortcut large enough to drive the shovel through. Youyu County Public Security Bureau said in a statement Press release last week.
The security office said it was first informed of the hole in a wall near Yangqianhe township, about 340 kilometers east of Beijing, on the afternoon of August 24. Part of the wall, believed to have been built in the Ming dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries, had been badly “excavated and damaged by large-scale machinery”, the office said.
The man, named Zheng in the statement, and the woman, Wang, are from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north of the country and were arrested for investigation, the office added. They were accused of destroying a cultural relic, according to China Dailya public medium.
The Great Wall, which served as a fortress protecting the territory from invasions under successive Chinese empires, stretches over 13,000 miles. The best-preserved section is about 5,500 miles long. In 1987, the wall was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. world heritage site.
The Great Wall has long faced the twin threats of erosion and human activity, with locals stealing bricks to use as building materials or to sell and, more recently, tourists carving sculptures into the rock.
In the 1950s and 1960s, parts of the wall were regularly demolished and reused as building materials, according to Dong Yaohui, vice president of the Great Wall Society of China. “At that time, people didn’t think it was serious. They would tear down the wall straight away,” he said, “and use it for anything.”
In 1984, in response to threats to its preservation, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping launched a campaign to restore the wall, declaring, “Love China, fix the Great Wall.” Subsequent governments created national legislation to protect the wall and attempted to clamp down on vandals. But success has been mixed and the challenges of preserving the wall have multiplied.
Vandalism of the site has continued well into the 21st century, according to Chinese state media. report that local residents living near the wall built many private shrines there, dug holes in it for storage, and used the wall as part of their garden fences or sheepfolds.
In 2002, a villager in Hebei Province build a urinal on the Great Wall and removed bricks from it to make a defecation hole. In the same year and in the same province, farmers demolished more than 3,200 feet from the wall, collected the bricks and sold them to build roads.
However, such incidents have become rare in recent years, Dong said. “Man-made damage to the Great Wall is mostly under control. There isn’t much man-made damage, but some natural damage still occurs from time to time.
The wall has also been the target of vandalism by tourists. In 2021, two people were banned of the site after entering a section of the old structure being redeveloped. And earlier this year a man was detained for several days after carving a name on the wall, local media said, an action subject to penalties, including a fine of up to $68 and up to 10 days in detention.
According to the government 2019 plan to protect the Great Wall18.4 percent of the structure is considered poorly preserved, 27.1 percent is in danger of disappearing, and 24.1 percent has already disappeared.
Part of the challenge of maintaining the Great Wall is that it was built over many dynasties, using various materials and methods. It is therefore difficult to define exactly where it begins and where it ends, said Yujie Zhu, an associate professor at the Australian National University who specializes in heritage studies.
“We don’t have a Great Wall,” but rather a vast, sprawling network of walls and fortifications, he said.
“There is limited knowledge of what is or is not part of the wall,” he said, meaning local residents might not be aware of the importance of what they are taking bricks from. or what they damage.
He added that the Western concept of heritage buildings or architectural protection was introduced relatively recently in China. “So when we hear that someone comes in and touches or destroys part of the wall, it’s not news,” Zhu said. “It happens all the time. But it’s become news because over the past 50 years it’s become heritage.