BEIJING (AP) — The death of a young doctor who was reprimanded for warning about China’s new virus triggered an outpouring Friday of praise for him and fury that communist authorities put politics above public safety.
In death, Dr. Li Wenliang became the face of simmering anger at the ruling Communist Party’s controls over information and complaints that officials lie about or hide disease outbreaks, chemical spills, dangerous consumer products or financial frauds.
The 34-year-old ophthalmologist died overnight at Wuhan Central Hospital, where he worked and likely contracted the virus while treating patients in the early days of the outbreak.
“A hero who released information about Wuhan’s epidemic in the early stage, Dr. Li Wenliang is immortal,” the China Center for Disease Control’s chief scientist, Zeng Guang, wrote on the Sina Weibo microblog service.
Police in December had reprimanded eight doctors including Li for warning friends on social media about the emerging threat. China’s supreme court later criticized the police, but the ruling party also has tightened its grip on information about the outbreak.
The Chinese ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, said in Twitter, a service the ruling party’s internet censorship blocks the public from seeing, “Really saddened by the death of Dr. Li Wenliang. He was a very devoted doctor. We are so grateful to him for what he has done in our joint efforts fighting against #2019nCoV.”
The government announced a team from Beijing would be sent to Wuhan to investigate “issues reported by the masses involving Dr. Li Wenliang.”
AP researcher Chen Si in Zhengzhou, China, and video journalist Olivia Zhang and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.