Two people have been detained in a northern Chinese county after local police say a portion of the Great Wall of China was destroyed with an excavator.
A release from the Youyu County Public Security Bureau states a 55-year-old man and 38-year-old woman were working at a construction site nearby and wanted to reduce the distance they had to travel with the excavator to get to the work site.
They allegedly used the machine to enlarge a gap in the Great Wall that already existed so it was large enough for the excavator to pass through.
In doing so, the pair caused “irreversible damage” to that section of the Great Wall, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty, local police said. The Ming Dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644 but some portions of the Great Wall are more than 2,000 years old.
Police learned of the damage to the Great Wall on Aug. 24 after they received a report about a large gap. A preliminary investigation concluded that the wall had been dug out with heavy machinery. Police patrolled the area and eventually found the man and woman with an excavator in a neighbouring county.
The pair have been detained as the investigation continues. Their names have not been released by officials, though police say the man’s surname is Zheng and the woman’s surname is Wang. Both are from Horinger county in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China.
According to China Daily, the pair admitted to using the excavator on the Great Wall. They have been charged with destroying a cultural relic.
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The section of the ancient site that was damaged is near a Ming Dynasty beacon tower that is relatively well-preserved, though police worry that the excavation will threaten the wall’s integrity. The damage occurred in a stretch of the Great Wall called the 32nd Great Wall.
The Great Wall spans over 20,000 kilometres and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
While more famous parts of the wall are beautifully constructed and well-maintained, others parts of the structure are in disrepair, the BBC reports. A 2016 article from the Beijing Times suggests that over 30 per cent of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty has been destroyed.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to protect the Great Wall and crack down on vandalism.
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