by WorldTribune Staff, February 8, 2022
The Chinese doctor who in late 2019 was among the first to warn of the Covid-19 outbreak, and was punished by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for doing so, is being remembered as a “hero” two years later.
On Dec. 30, 2019, Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmology doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital, sent an online message warning of a new deadly disease that appeared to be a new strain of the SARS virus.
“[Seven] cases of SARS were diagnosed in the South China Fruit and Seafood Market and were isolated in the emergency department of our hospital,” Dr. Li wrote on WeChat.
The post by Li and other doctors triggered an immediate crackdown by Chinese government censors who blocked all posts using the word “Wuhan unknown pneumonia,” “SARS variation,” “Wuhan Seafood Market,” and others related to the virus outbreak.
“Beijing would go on to face global criticism for its lack of openness and handling of the origins and early outbreak of the pandemic,” security correspondent Bill Gertz noted on Feb. 7 in a report for the Washington Times.
On Jan. 1, 2020, eight medical doctors, including Dr. Li, were arrested by security police, interrogated and charged with making false statements on the Internet, a crime in China punishable by imprisonment.
Dr. Li, 34, was forced to write a “self-criticism” statement claiming his online remarks were wrong because they created a “negative impact” on society. Communist authorities were unable to impose a prison sentence on the doctor because he became ill with Covid and died on Feb. 7, 2020, leaving behind a pregnant wife and child.
Randall Schriver, a former Pentagon and State Department official, said Dr. Li discovered that a patient had suffered from the new SARS outbreak and tried to warn his colleagues of the emerging epidemic.
“Today we stand solemnly with the people of the People’s Republic of China who grieve the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, a lone hero who died while alerting the world of the perils of COVID-19,” said Schriver, now chairman of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank.
“Despite warnings from the security bureau officials, he went back to work and tirelessly cared for patients, until he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and passed away on Feb. 7, 2020,” Schriver said.
“His bravery and willingness to stand against China‘s authoritarian regime and inform the public of the COVID-19 outbreak saved many lives in China, as people took his warnings seriously and wore masks from the early stages of the outbreak.”
Critics say China’s government continues to hide information about the initial disease outbreak and has not apologized to Dr. Li‘s family for his treatment by authorities after he went public.