The story of the coronavirus whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang
He was silenced by Chinese authorities for warning against the coronavirus outbreak, and soon died from the illness. This is the story of Dr. Li Wenliang.
His face has become a symbol for freedom of speech in China.
Dr. Li Wenliang was silenced after sounding the alarm about a strange new virus, the coronavirus. He died of the illness he warned against at just 34. “The Chinese people do not know what is happening and therefore, actually, it's the regime that is allowing this virus to spread around.”, an activist claims. Dr. Li was an ophthalmologist in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak. He and his wife were expecting their second child.
The first warning On December 30, 2019, Dr. Li signed onto his medical school alumni chatroom and posted a warning about an illness going around that resembled Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) with people “quarantined in the emergency department”. In the middle of the night, days later, Chinese authorities took him to the police station and forced him to sign a statement saying that his warning was an unfounded rumor, promising that he wouldn’t commit anymore “illegal actions”. Only then was he allowed to return to work.
His diagnosis On January 10, 2020, he treated a woman for glaucoma, without knowing she was infected with the coronavirus. Dr. Li was diagnosed 2 weeks later. He eventually decided to go public about his experience. He criticized the inaction of the Chinese government, continued leaking information about the virus, and was heralded a hero overnight.
On February 6th, confusion surfaced about his death, and people on social media accused the government of delaying the announcement. When Dr. Li was officially declared dead, an online revolt burst out. People vilified the Chinese government for covering up the magnitude of the outbreak and demanded more freedom of speech.
Remembering Dr. Li “I feel very sad. He is such a nice person, but still didn't pull through. Those left do not dare to speak out. Alas, I don't know what to say.”, one Beijing resident shares. Another resident reveals, “We heard the news of his death with heavy hearts, because he gave his life for our ordinary people. We are extremely grateful. We should learn from him.” On February 7th, people commemorated the whistleblower by blowing whistles. Dr. Li is being honored for raising his voice against local authorities accused of downplaying the outbreak.