The deadly coronavirus has been trending worldwide for the better part of 2020, claiming lives and leaving thousands infected. But the passing on of a Chinese whistleblower doctor who was punished for trying to raise the alarm about coronavirus saw social media users in China go ballistic expressing anger, grief, and demanded freedom of speech.
34-year-old Li Wenliang, died in the wee hours of this Friday morning after he was infected while fighting against the outbreak. In late December, Li warned colleagues on social media about a mysterious virus that would become the coronavirus epidemic and was detained by police in Wuhan for allegedly spreading false rumors.
“The test results come out positive today. Everything is settled. It is confirmed,” read Li’s last blog post on February 1.
Li was forced to sign a police document to admit he had breached the law and had seriously disrupted social order. He was one of eight people who were detained for allegedly spreading rumors about the coronavirus outbreak.
His sudden demise became a hot topic of reading on China’s microblogging site, with more than 1.5 Billion views, and was heavily discussed in private messaging groups. This strong public reaction drew the attention of Chinese topmost government agencies who issued an official statement saying that investigators will be sent to Wuhan to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the problems reported by the public concerning Doctor Li Wenliang.
Posts from ordinary Chinese people continue to direct their outrage towards the authorities. Some say the police are anxious that his death would trigger a huge wave of anger, making them feel the need to maintain stability and suppress people’s voices.
“Here is a doctor with a conscience. People on the frontline have been sacrificed but the officials have not been held to account. It is an example of how evil has triumphed over the good,” said a veteran journalist admitting that Li’s death has become an emotional flashpoint amid the tight control of speech under President Xi Jinping’s regime.