Two workers have been detained in northern China after local authorities said they plowed through a section of the country’s Great Wall with an excavator, leaving a gaping hole.
The pair, a 38-year-old man and 55-year-old-woman, caused “irreversible damage” when they used the construction equipment to widen an existing gap and create a shortcut that was large enough to drive the excavator through it, the Youyu County Public Security Bureau said in a news release last week.
The security bureau said it was first notified of the hole in a section of wall, about 215 miles east of Beijing, on the afternoon of Aug. 24. Law enforcement officers rushed to the scene to find that a piece of the wall, believed to have been constructed by the Ming dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries, had been severely “damaged by large-scale mechanical excavation,” the bureau said.
The man, named in the release as Zheng, and the woman, named as Whang, are from the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in the country’s north and were taken in for investigation, the bureau added. They have been charged with destroying a cultural relic, The China Daily, a state-owned media outlet, reported.
The Great Wall, which served as a fortress protecting the territory from invasions under successive Chinese empires, spans more than 13,000 miles. The most well-preserved section is around 5,499 miles long. In 1987, the entire wall was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But challenges to preserving the wall have mounted. As of 2015, figures from the Chinese government suggested that as much as 30 percent of the original structure may have disappeared. Other parts of the wall are in poor condition because of human activity, including local residents stealing bricks to build their houses, authorities say.
China has also battled vandalism from tourists. In 2017, photographs of carvings on the wall in Chinese, English and Korean brought attention to its condition, according to local media. In 2021, two people were banned from the site after they trespassed on to an undeveloped section of the ancient structure. And earlier this year, another man was detained for several days after he carved a name into the wall, local media said.