France24 – Thousands of Chinese social media users paid tribute to Li Wenliang on Saturday, marking the one year anniversary of the death of the doctor who first blew the whistle on the coronavirus outbreak.
Li, one of a group of doctors in Wuhan who shared posts on social media warning of a SARS-like virus spreading in the central city in December 2019, was reprimanded by police for spreading “rumours”.
The 34-year-old ophthalmologist’s situation eventually became public, making him a potent symbol of the perils of offering a different narrative from the official Chinese messaging.
The Chinese public embraced Li as an ordinary man trying to do the right thing. His wife was pregnant and he was soon to be a father. He sent the “rumour” because he wanted to warn others.
The public also watched as he fell ill with the disease he was warning them about, eventually worsened, and died.
Li’s death from Covid-19 was initially reported by Chinese state media on the night of February 6, 2020, but news outlets quickly withdrew their reporting. The next day, Wuhan Central Hospital announced his death.
Chinese people on Saturday grieved his death, online and offline. Mourners brought flowers to the hospital, while online some people demanded for freedom of speech — posts that were quickly censored.