A 38-year-old man and 55-year-old women in Shanxi province were accused of digging through the Great Wall to create a shortcut for their construction work nearby, local police said in a statement.
They allegedly expanded an existing opening in the ancient structure into a wide gap large enough for their excavator to pass through to “save the distance of travel,” according to the statement.
Their excavation caused “irreversible” damage to the integrity and safety of that portion of the wall, the police said.
Police in Yuyou county detained the two suspects after receiving reports about the damage on August 24. The case is under further investigation, according to the statement.
The Great Wall, which acted as a key northern defense for successive Chinese Empires, has a total length of more than 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Its earliest sections date back more than two thousand years and were later extended throughout China’s ancient dynasties.
The damage was inflicted on a section of the wall dating back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), known as the 32nd Great Wall. It is also home to a relatively well preserved watch tower and is listed as a provincial cultural relic.
Chinese authorities have in recent years stepped up protection of the Great Wall and cracked down on acts of vandalism.
In 2021, three visitors were detained and fined by police for scrawling on the famous Badaling section of wall with a sharp object.
Later that year, Chinese authorities banned two foreign tourists from the Great Wall after they trespassed onto an undeveloped part of the Mutianyu section of the wall.