Li Wenliang: ‘Wuhan whistleblower’ remembered one year on

Tributes have been paid on social media in China commemorating a doctor who raised the alarm about the country’s coronavirus outbreak, one year after he died with Covid-19.

Thousands paid tribute to Li Wenliang ahead of the first anniversary of his death on 7 February 2020.

He died after contracting Covid-19 while treating patients in Wuhan.

Dr Li had tried to warn fellow medics of a disease that looked like Sars – another deadly coronavirus.

But he was told by police to “stop making false comments” and was investigated for “spreading rumours”.

Dr Li was an eye doctor at a hospital in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the first case of the coronavirus was detected at the end of 2019.

Dr Li’s death prompted a rare wave of grief and public anger over the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

A Li Wenliang tribute
Sunday marks the first anniversary of Dr Li’s death

As hospitals filled up in Wuhan, the government was accused of downplaying the severity of the virus and concealing the extent of its spread.

Only when anger reached fever pitch was Dr Li exonerated and honoured as a hero by the Chinese government.

Since then, more than 105 million people have been infected with coronavirus and 2.3 million have died with Covid-19 worldwide.

What tributes have been made?

Freedom of speech is limited in China, where the government has promoted an official narrative hinged on its successful handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

China does routinely censor comments on social media.

But Dr Li’s personal page on Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – has become a rare space for users to express themselves about the trauma of the coronavirus pandemic.

Comments left behind on Li's Weibo
image captionDr Li’s post saying he was ill with Covid-19 has been flooded with comments

Hundreds of thousands of messages have been left in the comments section of his posts.

Many more appeared on Saturday

“Dr Li, history and the people will never forget you!,” one wrote in the comments of Dr Li’s final post.

“I thought everyone would have forgotten you after a year,” another wrote. “I was wrong, you live forever in the hearts of the Chinese people.

Citizens in Wuhan have also been paying tribute.

Close to the hospital where Dr Li worked, Li Pan told Reuters: “He was the first to tell us about the virus.

“He must have considered the impact would be huge, but he still raised the alarm. That was really brave.”


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