Raise fines for damaging the Great Wall

By Wei Jia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/28 18:23:39

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

The well-known Badaling section of the Great Wall in the west of Beijing, the best protected section of the Great Wall, made headlines recently for the rampant carvings on its weathered walls by cavalier tourists.

It's not the first time such vandalism on this symbol of China has been reported, but this time it's noted that the culprits are not Chinese alone, as thickets of English and Korean words were also spotted.

When trashing the Great Wall seems a free-for-all, a measure of hope could be found in the claim of an official with the publicity center of Badaling Great Wall that the graffiti were mostly done a long time ago.

"Carvings on the Great Wall were the worst right after 1979, when China began its opening up and when carving on the Great Wall was in vogue," the official said. "With the laws and regulations later introduced to protect cultural relics such as the Great Wall, and as people became more aware of the behavior that is expected of them, new graffiti has been few and far between."

To keep things as they are, more than 300 high-definition surveillance cameras have been installed along the Badaling Great Wall, and more than 100 staff members patrol the legendary structure every day. Those caught defacing the Great Wall by carving, daubing, or other actions will face fines between 200 (about $30) and 500 yuan, an amount many think is too small.

The penalty looks even paltrier when seen in the context of the damage. Dong Yaohui, vice chairman of the China Great Wall Society, said, "You can't rub off the deep carvings without damaging the bricks of the Great Wall, and you can't cover them up without changing the look of the Great Wall. There is really nothing people could do about the graffiti."

Sadly, we are yet to see the last case of a national treasure being treated as less valuable than a piece of home furniture. Bobby Brown, an NBA basketball player with the Houston Rockets, caused an outrage when he posted a picture of his name and jersey number carved into the bricks of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall on social media.

One way to prevent the defacement of the Great Wall could be to actively bring shaming into play. The management of Badaling Great Wall has rolled out a public blacklist of tourists with "uncivilized" behavior. The problem is it's not clear how such a blacklist works and how it could be a sufficient deterrent to people wanting to immortalize their visits.

Fines for defacing the Great Wall are also on the toothless side, not to mention the difficulty of enforcement considering the size of both the Great Wall and visitors flocking the site. Raise the fine to 1,000 yuan and make sure it is strictly and effectively enforced, and the message would come across much more emphatically.    

When a person, Chinese or foreigner, damages the Great Wall for the sake of their own vanity, they put trifling personal satisfaction before the collective feelings of the Chinese people. Substantially increased fines and public shaming carried out like you mean it are the least those self-centered vandals deserve.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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