In the early hours of Friday morning it was confirmed that Chinese Dr. Li wenliang, aged only 34 years old, had succumbed to the novel Coronavirus of which broke out in Wuhan. Li’s case is particularly significant as he was the first whistleblower who sought to publicize news of the outbreak within the city, something which gained negative traction from local authorities whom sought to silence him and threatened him with arrest for spreading rumours.
However, Li’s findings proved to be ultimately correct, with the outbreak having escalated into a China wide crisis which has accumulated over 30,000 cases so far and a growing number of deaths. Chinese netizens have took to Weibo to vent their outrage and deep grief at his passing, with many attacking the Wuhan authorities and describing it as a humiliation for China and a failure of the bureaucracy.
Li wenliang should be remembered and ultimately held in high regard for his actions, his passing is a tragic loss and the actions of which have led to this outcome are not justifiable. As a Doctor, he fought only for the people’s well being, safety and the public interest. To have sought to inform public, to raise awareness and to act on the profession he worked and studied so hard to obtain is not a crime and nor should it be a political taboo in any particular form.
China’s government must ultimately come to terms with the gravity of these mistakes and strike empathy with a public who are now openly stating that their confidence in them has been broken, and it is understandable. If China is to continue to improve, progress and modernize itself as a country then ultimately there must be a greater emphasis being placed on transparency and what is truly within the public interest, than on the rigid mechanisms of power, authority and order.
If Li’s actions had been took seriously, fairly and earnestly, we might not be finding ourselves in such an unpleasant battle to prevent a global epidemic right now. His passing is but one of hundreds in China, lives that have been needlessly lost under the whim of an institutionalized negligence in the pursuit of political and not public gain. May he rest in peace.