The Chinese doctor who sounded the alarm about coronavirus died late Thursday evening local time. Dr. Li Wenliang contracted the severely contagious virus while working amid the epidemic at Wuhan Central Hospital.
Physicians at Wuhan Central initially declared Li dead at 21:30 Wuhan time.
But physicians and reporters on the scene told the BBC that the Chinese government made them retract their reports:
Journalists and doctors at the scene, who do not want their names used, told the BBC and other media that government officials had intervened. Official media outlets had been told to change their reports to say the doctor was still being treated.
The People’s Daily, Global Times, and other Chinese outlets had already shared news of Dr. Li’s death, which reportedly led to an uproar of grief and anger on social media.
This is an “Onion” story. But it’s actually real life.
Dr. Li Wenliang was the coronavirus whistleblower. He warned other doctors, while the Chinese government tried to cover up the epidemic. And he couldn’t even die from it without the Chinese government trying to cover that up too.
The New York Times told Li’s story this week, concluding:
At critical turning points, Chinese authorities put secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the growing crisis and risking public alarm or political embarrassment.
Dr. Li warned his med school classmates in a post to an online chat group on Dec 30. Wuhan health authorities then summoned him in the middle of the night to explain why he told them about coronavirus quarantines in the hospital.
Then police forced him to sign a statement confessing his post was “illegal behavior.” Authorities accused him of spreading rumors and “severely disturbing the social order.”
Now that we know how right he was, the Chinese government still can’t unclench. After the doctor they repressed and stigmatized for warning about a deadly disease died from it himself, they reverted again to decades of communist party muscle memory.
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Last modified: February 6, 2020 11:54 PM UTC