| 15 April 2024, Monday |

Thousands message late Chinese COVID whistleblower doctor 2 years on

On the anniversary of the day he learnt about suspected pneumonia-causing viral infections in Wuhan and shared the information with colleagues physicians, thousands of people posted messages on the late Chinese COVID-19 whistleblower Li Wenliang’s social media account.

On Dec. 30, 2019, Li, an ophthalmologist at a hospital in Wuhan where the Sars-CoV-2 virus epidemic was initially discovered, got a medical report indicating that possible SARS coronavirus cases had been verified in the city, he posted on his Weibo account on Jan. 31.

In early January, after the information on “SARS cases” was shared in a WeChat group, Li was reprimanded by the local police, according to the same Weibo post.

On Jan. 12 he went to hospital, infected with the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease and died on Feb. 7, 2020.

His death led to an outpouring of grief on social media at a time when people were on edge about the virus and authorities were under fire over a perceived lack of transparency and a hardline approach taken to whistleblowers like Li.

Since then confidence has grown in China’s response to the pandemic, but people have continued to post to Li online, especially on certain anniversary days as they did on Thursday.

“Happy new year Dr. Li, we will remember you forever,” wrote a user called Tdby.

Others posted candle emojis, brief messages of thanks and exclamations of how two years have gone by so quickly, in the comments section of one of Li’s posts on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. Many wrote conversationally as if they were speaking to him beyond the grave.

Fang Kecheng from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said Li’s Weibo microblog has become a place online where people express their feelings they are not comfortable expressing elsewhere.

“Such places for anonymous expression are needed in any society, and this is especially true in today’s China,” said the communication researcher.

Mainland China has reported 101,683 confirmed cases as of Dec. 28, with the death toll at 4,636.

  • Reuters