Remembering Dr. Li Wenliang
Text by Chun Wang
February 8, 2020

On 30 December 2019, Dr. Li Wenliang posted in his medical school alumni group on the Chinese messaging app WeChat that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and were quarantined in his hospital in Wuhan. He sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection. Four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”. He was one of several medics targeted by police for trying to blow the whistle on the deadly virus in the early weeks of the outbreak.

Dr. Li later contracted the virus himself. He was hospitalized on January 12 and tested positive for the coronavirus on February 1. On February 7, a wave of anger and grief flooded Chinese social media site Weibo when news of Dr. Li’s death broke. Many posted under the hashtag “Can you manage, do you understand?” – a reference to the letter Dr. Li was told to sign where he was accused of disturbing “social order”. The top two trending hashtags on the website were “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang and apology” and “We want freedom of speech”. Both hashtags were quickly censored.


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