Beijing: China has installed over 300 high-definition cameras along the iconic Great Wall after growing incidents of vandalism, including by foreigners, who scratch their names or messages onto the masonry of one of the world’s seven wonders.
The move is part of a two-pronged approach to tackle the problem which also involves teams patrolling the historic landmark to catch or warn off perpetrators, state-run China Radio International reported. It follows recent publicity after Chinese characters, along with English and Korean words were found on parts of the Great Wall's popular Badaling section, causing a public outcry, it said.
However, the practice is nothing new. NBA player, Bobby Brown, aroused public anger after scribbling his name and number on the Great Wall in October 2016, the report said. An expert on the Great Wall, Dong Yaohui, says many of the scratches were left by tourists in the 1980s to 1990s when people were less aware of the importance of ancient monument protection, and preventative measures were far from effective.
The newly installed cameras will provide real-time monitoring and provide a record of events as evidence. If anyone is found to be vandalising the wall, they will be banned from visiting again, reported to the police and fined, the report said. Special teams will also patrol daily, with more frequent patrols during peak times.
Special signs have been put up warning visitors against climbing on the wall or vandalising the brickwork.
The Great Wall, a symbol of China, is actually not just one wall, but many interconnected walls built between the third century B.C. and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The existing sections are mainly the Ming wall, which stretches over 8,800km, inspiring wonder amongst its millions of visitors each year.
"It is a marvellous sight. I wonder how this massive structure was built in the olden times," said Sunil Kumar, an Indian visitor to the Wall, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
With a total length of more than 21,000km (the entire wall with all of its branches), China's Great Wall runs through 404 counties in 15 provincial regions, with much of it in poor condition due to natural erosion and man-made damage.
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials. It was mainly constructed to thwart foreign invasions.
Last year, the Chinese government allocated 700 million yuan (over $100 million) to protect the Great Wall over the past two years, according to a top cultural heritage official.
Liu Yuzhu, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), said that this year his department aims to set up model zones for protection, launch training programmes for protectors and volunteers and establish a national research centre for Great Wall protection.