NANTONG, China - A concrete public road in eastern China has lost its entire top layer - not stripped by an approved contractor, but by two men who illegally dug it out and sold the slabs to line their own pockets, the local media reported.
"A road in Nantong - the whole 410m of it - 'stolen' in just two days" went headlines in Chinese newspapers about the unusual case.
According to Guancha, a Shanghai-based news portal, the rural road in Nantong city, about 130km north-west of Shanghai, was completed in 2008 and was in good condition.
The "theft" was discovered some two weeks ago by a villager who called the local police to inquire why the road had been suddenly shorn of its surface, reported Guancha.
When a check with the village committee confirmed that there was no plan to remove the road, the police studied pictures filmed by roadside cameras and spotted a farm vehicle that had been used to transport the slabs.
The owner of the vehicle, who is surnamed Gu, owned up when he was approached by the police, saying: "As this road was not often used, I thought I might as well dig out some stuff and make some money."
Gu said he hatched the plan early this month and secured the help of a friend surnamed Yang.
Equipped with an excavator and a truck, the two dug out more than 630 tonnes of concrete slabs in two days and sold them to a quarry for more than 12,000 yuan (S$2,600).
But the police arrested them before they split the money.
Gu has been detained since his arrest and Yang is out on bail.
Many Chinese netizens were amused by the case, with one noting that the public infrastructure that has been stolen in the country includes roadside railings, manhole covers and lamp posts.
"Now they are joined by a public road," a netizen quipped.
Another netizen lamented: "How much will it cost to re-pave the road? It could not be just 12,000 yuan, right?"
Said yet another: "The level of sophistication of China's thieves is rising, considering that some 'jobs' involve special skills. But this one seems to be a case of much ado for a pittance."
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