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China Wants People to Stop Stealing Great Wall Bricks

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China wants everyone to stop stealing its Great Wall.

Officials from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage have announced they will begin conducting regular inspections and will carry out random checks along the wall to ensure local authorities are complying with national protection laws, the Guardian reports.

While the country has worked to preserve the UNESCO site for decades, protection measures have not been as successful as they would like. Nearly one third of the Ming dynasty-era (1368–1644) wall has disappeared, and officials blame environmental causes and human damage.

The millions of tourists who visit the historic site can cause problems when they hike along remote stretches, but it’s not only visitors hurting the wall. China’s Great Wall Society has said local people who live near the wall regularly steal bricks from it to use in buildings or to sell. State-run media also reported that some villagers took bricks featuring historic engravings to sell to tourists for 30 yuan ($4.50).

“It doesn’t have large-scale damage, but if you accumulate the different damaged parts, it is very serious,” the Great Wall Society’s vice-chairman, Dong Yaohui, told the Guardian. “The problem is we spend a lot of money on repairing the Great Wall instead of preserving the Great Wall.”


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Write to Abigail Abrams at abigail.abrams@time.com