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Great Wall of China damaged by workers allegedly looking for shortcut for their excavator

Two people have been arrested in northern China after allegedly damaging a section of China’s iconic Great Wall by using an excavator to cut a huge gap in the ancient structure, local police said in a statement posted online. The suspects, a 38-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, are construction workers who were allegedly trying to create a shortcut to save time going around the wall, the police said, describing the structure as “severely damaged.” 

Local police officials received a report on August 24, 2023 that a gap had been dug in the 32nd Great Wall in Youyu County, located in the northwest of China. Police patrolled the line and found an excavator and a man and a woman present. 

Youyu County Public Security Bureau

The police in China’s northwest Youyu County said they were alerted on August 24 to reports that a gap had been dug in a section of the famous structure known as the 32nd Great Wall, a section dating back to the Ming Dynasty, which ruled over China for almost 300 years until the mid-1640s. 

“Excavators were used to excavate the original gap of the ancient Great Wall into a large gap, so that the excavator could pass through the gap, which caused irreversible damage to the integrity of the Ming Great Wall and the safety of cultural relics,” the police statement said. 

A 38 year old man and a 55 year old woman (pictured) have been detained after allegedly damaging a segment of China’s iconic Great Wall by using an excavator to dig through it.  

Youyu County Public Security Bureau

The two suspects were detained pending further investigation, the authorities said.  

Significant portions of the Great Wall of China were built during the Ming Dynasty. The entire wall, which was eventually joined up, was built in sections, with the oldest portions dating back more than 2,000 years. 

An image shared by police and city officials in Youyu County, northwest China, shows a large gap in the 32nd Great Wall of China allegedly cut by construction workers and detected by authorities on Aug. 24, 2023.

Youyu County Public Security Bureau

The structure is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site and stands as one of the great monumental feats of ancient human engineering.

In recent years, around 30% of China’s Great Wall has disappeared as challenging climate conditions and reckless human activities — including stealing the bricks to build houses — have eroded the structure, according to the AFP news agency. 

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