The death of Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who first sounded the alarm about the Wuhan novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) highlights the preoccupation of the Chinese government with its self-image of stability while suppressing any information it deemed unpleasant.
Dr. Li died on Friday, February 07, at a Wuhan hospital while treating patients infected with the virus until he himself was also infected and succumb to the epidemic.
“The case of Li Wenliang is a tragic reminder of how the Chinese authorities’ preoccupation with maintaining ‘stability’ drives it to suppress vital information about matters of public interest,” Amnesty International’s Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin said.
“China must learn the lesson from Li’s case and adopt a rights-respecting approach to combating the epidemic. Nobody should face harassment or sanctions for speaking out about public dangers, just because it may cause embarrassment to the government,” Bequelin continued.
Li Wenliang contracted the novel coronavirus while working at Wuhan Central Hospital. He sent out a warning to fellow medics in late December 2019 about patients with symptoms similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that began in southern China in 2002. He was immediately silenced and punished by the local authorities for “spreading rumours”.
The effects of the virus have since been confirmed to have killed more than 800 people and infected more than 36,000 in mainland China, although the real numbers may be far higher. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)