Li Wenlian, a 33-year-old Chinese ophthalmologist based in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, died on Friday. Dr. Li has become a folk hero after he was arrested for warning about the dangers of the deadly new virus now spreading around the world.
Millions op people flocked to a live stream about Dr. Li that was run by local media outside the hospital where he was being treated. In social-media posts, many Chinese direct their frustration at government officials who many believe didn’t respond quickly enough despite clear evidence of the developing epidemic.
The Wuhan government doesn’t disclose the number of infected medical staff. To date, the most notable indication of infections among the medical community has come from Zhong Nanshan, another prominent doctor and a veteran of the 2003 SARS crisis, who disclosed in January that 14 medical staff had been infected by one patient.
"No one is allowed to tell the truth," a user who goes by JamesBOYS posted on Weibo, a popular social media site in China.
"Free speech is crucial to everyone's life," 胃肠外科颜值担当 says on Weibo.
On Dec. 30, Dr. Li sent a message to former classmates on WeChat, a popular messaging app, warning them of new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS (the coronavirus that spread in China and throughout the world in 2003). He later corrected that, saying it was an unknown coronavirus. He recalled seeing reports in December of an unusual cluster of pneumonia cases linked to an animal market in Wuhan.
Dr. Li was arrested en interrogated by party disciplinary officials and hospital management, who accused him of spreading rumors en forced him to write a self-criticism.
“They told me not to publish any information about this online,” Dr. Li told the Beijing Youth Daily in late January. “Later, the epidemic started to spread noticeably. I’d personally been treating someone who was infected, and whose family got infected, and so then I got infected.”