Li Wenliang, Chinese Doctor Who Tried To Raise Alarm On Coronavirus, Dies From Disease

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Li Wenliang
People wearing masks attend a vigil for Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, in Hong Kong, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Image: AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Li Wenliang, the whistleblower Chinese doctor who tried to raise alarm about the coronavirus died from the disease on Feb. 7, according to a communist party-controlled newspaper.

Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at the Wuhan City central hospital, tried to warn his classmates about a contagious virus that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

He was detained by police in January for “rumor-mongering” when word started to spread about the disease as a result of his online posts.

“We profoundly regret and mourn this death,” the Wuhan City central hospital said in a brief statement on its official social media account.

As events have unfolded and the virus continues to infect and kill people, many have wondered if things would have been different if Li had not been silenced and detained.

“The Wuhan government owes Dr. Li an apology,” wrote Luo Yu, a technology industry executive and Dr. Li’s classmate, on a widely circulated post on the Weibo social media platform.

Li began coughing on Jan. 10 as he recalled, and three weeks later, he checked himself into the hospital. He later told his social media followers that he had been tested and found to be infected with the coronavirus.

While at the hospital, he started talking to reporters and his fans online. He talked about how he tried to warn his friends and colleagues about the virus, his ordeal with the police and his battle with the illness.

He said that before he was hospitalized, he lived with his pregnant wife and young child, and as soon as he suspected that he was infected, he quarantined himself. His mother and father were hospitalized with fever, he said without disclosing whether they contracted the coronavirus.

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There were, however, conflicting reports regarding Li’s fate. His hospital posted on social media that Li was in “critical condition and we are doing our best to rescue him.”

Later, the Wuhan Central hospital posted that Li had died as a result of getting infected in the course of his work. They said that he was “battling the pneumonia epidemic due to the spread of the new coronavirus”.

Michael Ryan, a World Health Organization official described Li as being on the front line in battling the coronavirus. The virus has killed more than 1,383 people to date.