i Wenliang, the doctor who was one of the first to sound warnings about the threat of the coronavirus only to be reprimanded by police, is finally receiving some justice, six weeks after his death.
In early January, Li was one of eight whistleblower doctors to be summoned by police in Wuhan for “spreading rumors” about a mysterious virus at the Huanan Seafood Market.
The 34-year-old ophthalmologist had sent out a WeChat post on December 30, warning alumni of his medical school to take precautions and wear protective clothing after seven patients from the seafood market had been diagnosed with “SARS.”
At the police station, Li was forced to sign a letter, declaring that he would “heed the advice of police” and “stop [his] illegal behavior” or else be met by the “full force of the law.”
A little more than a month later, hundreds of people were dead from the virus, including Li himself.
His death set off a mix of public mourning combined with government criticism that is rarely seen in China. The sadness and anger surged off the internet as a small crowd gathered outside Li’s hospitals, leaving behind bouquets of flowers and quarantined Wuhan residents blew whistles out of their windows.
Li became the face of growing public anger against how the government had initially handled the virus outbreak. Several days after his death, the National Supervisory Commission opened up an investigation into what had happened to him.
The results of that investigation were announced on Thursday with Beijing declaring that Li had acted bravely while Wuhan police had acted “inappropriately” by punishing him, recommending that local authorities should rectify the matter.
In response, Wuhan police have withdrawn the reprimand against Li, issued “disciplinary punishments” against two officers involved in the matter, and apologized to Li’s family.
While China has now cast itself as an example for the rest of the world on how to control the coronavirus, with domestic transmissions dropping to zero, researchers at the University of Southampton have estimated that had the Chinese government taken epidemic prevention measures three weeks earlier than 95 percent of infections could have been prevented.
At the moment, the virus has infected more than 250,000 people across the globe, killing 10,000.