Police have arrested 26 people who are alleged to have seriously damaged a protected northeast China Neolithic culture site on the World Heritage waiting list.
Zhang Xiuwu, of Lingyuan City, Liaoning Province, is accused of illegally mining iron ore last year in several places at the Niuheliang relic site, an important site for the study of the Neolithic Hongshan Culture, an aboriginal culture that existed in north China about 6,000 years ago.
Liu Xuekun is alleged to have built workshops for ore refining with others at the relic site without official approval.
They continued production despite local land, forestry and heritage authorities' attempts to stop them, according to the government of Chaoyang City, which covers Lingyuan.
Prosecutors are also investigating 14 officials in connection with the case.
The Niuheliang site is located on the border of Jianping County and Lingyuan. The 56-square-km site boasts ancient temples, altars and tombs believed to have significant scientific, historical and artistic value, according to archaeologists.
In 1988, the site was listed for key protection by the State Council, China's Cabinet. In 2006, it was included on the country's World Heritage waiting list. The list has 35 relic sites across the country.
China has 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which include the Great Wall and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors.