Death of Chinese doctor who warned about coronavirus sparks outpouring of anger

Under-fire government launches investigation into ‘issues raised by public’

WHO comments on death of Chinese doctor accused of 'spreading rumours' about coronavirus

The death of coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang has triggered a wave of public anger towards the Chinese government over its handling of the outbreak.

Li, a 34-year-old opthalmologist in the city of Wuhan, became one of the most visible public figures during the crisis after he was reprimanded by police for “spreading rumours” about the illness.

News of his death on Friday morning became the most-read topic on China’s microblogging wesbite Weibo and prompted hundreds of thousands of people to pay tribute below the doctor’s final post on social media.

“A hero who released information about Wuhan’s epidemic in the early stage, Dr Li Wenliang is immortal,” wrote Zeng Guang, chief scientist at the China Center for Disease Control.

“Light a candle and pay tribute to the hero,” said one user of microblogging site Weibo. “You were the beam of light in the night.”

Others placed blame for the deaths on Chinese officials and called for the government to apologise for its treatment of Li, although the most critical comments were quickly deleted by censors. Some internet users protested by replacing their profiles with a white exclamation mark on a black background.

The World Health Organisation said on Twitter that it was “deeply saddened” by news of his death while Amnesty International said the doctor’s death highlighted China’s human rights failings.

“The case of Li Wenliang is a tragic reminder of how the Chinese authorities’ preoccupation with maintaining ‘stability’ drives it to suppress vital information about matters of public interest,” said Nicholas Bequelin, the organisations’s director for the region.

“Nobody should face harassment or sanctions for speaking out about public dangers, just because it may cause embarrassment to the government.”

China’s anti-corruption agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on Friday it would send investigators to Wuhan to probe “issues raised by the people in connection with Dr Li Wenliang.”

Li raised concerns about the new virus in a message to a group of doctors on WeChat, a Chinese messaging platform, in December. He also posted a picture of a test result and gave details of the virus’ links to a seafood market in Wuhan.

On 3 January the city police bureau sent him a letter saying he had ”severely disrupted social order” and warned the doctor he would face criminal charges unless he promised to stop posting messages.

Last Saturday Li revealed he had tested positive for the coronavirus. It is likely he contracted the illness while treating patients at Wuhan Central Hospital.

Following his death at 2.58am local time on Friday, the Wuhan government issued a statement expressing “deep condolences and regret”.

“We pay tribute to how he stood at the front line to fight the epidemic and offer our sincere condolences to his family,” the government added.

China has confirmed at least 636 deaths and more than 31,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak.

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in