Dr. Li Wenliang was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital in China’s Hubei Province who was reprimanded by the Chinese government and later died of coronavirus after he warned others about the disease in late December.
The Chinese government exonerated Li and offered a “solemn apology” to his family in mid-March, more than a month after he died from the virus in early February.
A week after his death, Li’s mother Lu Shuyun demanded an explanation from the police about his treatment, saying in an online video that her son was “summoned by the Wuhan Police Bureau” and forced to sign an “admonishment notice” for allegedly spreading inaccurate information about the outbreak. “We won’t give up if they don’t give us an explanation,” she said at the time.
He was reportedly then summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was forced to sign a letter stating that he made false comments about the virus.
In this Feb 3, 2020, photo released by Beijing Thanksgiving Public Welfare Foundation, Dr. Li Wenliang is seen at The Central Hospital of Wuhan in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. (Beijing Thanksgiving Public Welfare Foundation via AP)
Li was among eight doctors reprimanded by Chinese police late last year for warning people on social media about the threat of the virus.
Along with the apology in March, Chinese officials said two police officers had been issued “disciplinary punishments” for the original handling of the matter.
Coronavirus soon spread through Wuhan, leading to overwhelmed hospitals and widespread shutdowns in the area in January until it spread throughout the country and eventually across the globe, leading to nearly 250,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths by March 20.
Li’s death at the hospital in Wuhan – where he treated patients and likely contracted the virus – renewed longstanding anger about the communist party’s alleged lies and suppression of information in the country.
Leaders in Wuhan have been accused of telling doctors last year to not publicize the threat of the virus and told to delete social media posts asking for donations of medical supplies.