HONG KONG — China’s Great Wall has stood for centuries, through war and upheaval — but one section of the vast structure was seemingly no match for two workers seeking a shortcut.
A part of the wall in northern China has been severely damaged by a pair of construction workers using an excavator, local authorities said.
The two suspects, a 38-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, were detained, according to the police department at Youyu County in the northern province of Shanxi. They had widened an existing cavity in the wall, digging a “large gap” to allow their excavator through as a shortcut for work nearby, police said in a statement Thursday.
The police said that they had caused “irreversible damage” to the integrity and safety of the cultural relic.
Authorities received a report about the alleged damage on Aug. 24 and the case was still under investigation, police said.
The damaged section of the Great Wall, a provincial cultural relic site, belongs to the 32nd Great Wall established in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
It had been one of the existing complete border walls and beacon towers with important protection and research value, according to the county police department.
The Great Wall has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. It was built starting in 220 BC when China had its first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, and rebuilt at various periods, according to UNESCO.
The wall seen by most tourists was built in the Ming Dynasty, also known as the Ming Great Wall.
But in recent years, some parts of the wall have been demolished. About 30% of the Ming Great Wall has disappeared, according to the state-run Beijing Times in 2016.
This has led to the Chinese government stepping up efforts to preserve and protect the ancient structure.
In April 2020, the Badaling Great Wall tourism site near the capital city, Beijing, introduced new regulations that would allow the site to blacklist tourists without “disciplinary behaviors” and give them administrative penalties.
In May 2021, two foreign tourists were banned from the Great Wall after ignoring the “no crossing sign” and climbing onto an undeveloped section.
In August, a tourist was detained and fined for carving on the wall with a hairpin.