Tearing Down the Wall

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Chinese authorities arrested two people this week accused of severely damaging a section of China’s Great Wall in order to create a shortcut for work near the world heritage site, NBC News reported.

Police said the suspects, a 38-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, had widened an existing cavity in the wall to create a “large gap” for their excavator to pass through. Officials added that the individuals had caused “irreversible damage” to the integrity and safety of the landmark.

The first part of the Great Wall was built in 220 BCE by China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang and later rebuilt and extended at various periods. It served as a defensive line against invasions from nomadic nations and groups in the north.

In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added the monument – of which all sections total more than 13,000 miles in length – to its World Heritage Site list.

The damaged section belongs to the 32nd Great Wall established by the Ming Dynasty, which ruled from 1368 to 1644. That part had been one of the remaining complete sections of border walls and beacon towers, with important research value and protections in place, police said.

The wall is a major tourist attraction in China even as sections of it have been demolished in recent years: Local media reported in 2016 that around 30 percent of the Ming Great Wall – the section seen by most tourists – has disappeared.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has increased its efforts to protect the historic landmark from unruly tourists.

In April 2020, the Badaling Great Wall tourism site near Beijing implemented regulations allowing the blacklisting of tourists displaying “disciplinary behaviors” and subjecting them to administrative penalties.

In May 2021, authorities banned two foreign tourists from the Great Wall for ignoring a “no crossing” sign and venturing onto a dilapidated section of the wall in need of restoration.

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