In Brief

Coronavirus kills whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang

Doctor was interrogated by Chinese police after he raised the alarm

The Chinese doctor who raised the alarm on coronavirus two weeks before it was officially confirmed has died from the infection, the Wuhan Central Hospital has announced.

In a statement on social media, the hospital said: “Our ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was infected during the fight of the epidemic of the new coronavirus pneumonia, and died at 2:58am on the morning of February 7, despite the fact that we had tried our best to resuscitate him.”

After Li warned colleagues in December about a mysterious virus that would become the coronavirus epidemic, he was detained by police in Wuhan on 3 January for “spreading false rumours”.

He was forced to sign a police document to admit he had breached the law and had “seriously disrupted social order”.

Then, last weekend, he announced on social media that he had caught the virus. He wrote: “The test results came out positive today. Everything is settled. It is confirmed.”

As he battled the disease, he shared documents online and carried out interviews through text message, “helping reporters piece together an alarming picture of official incompetence and negligence in the very period when containment might have been most possible,” says The Guardian.

The Times said he had become a “national hero” and the Supreme People’s Court, China’s highest judicial authority, has since published an account criticising the Wuhan police for their treatment of Dr Li and other whistleblowers.

Guan Hanfeng, an orthopaedic specialist at Tongji Hospital, Wuhan, and Luo Yu, a former classmate, led the tributes to Dr Li last night. “The Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang an apology,” Ms Luo wrote on social media.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s emergencies programme, said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did.”

Dr Li had a wife and child, with a second child due this summer. Before he fell ill, he said: “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier I think it would have been a lot better. There should have been more openness and transparency.”

Even the announcement of his passing was messy. Several state media outlets reported Li's death late last night but then deleted them without explanation. The hospital later confirmed he had died.

As CNN puts it: “China’s censors tried to control the narrative on a hero doctor’s death. It backfired terribly.”

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