WUHAN, (CHINA) – Residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan say they remain grateful to the “whistleblower” doctor a year after his death from COVID-19. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at a hospital in the city was the first who tried to warn about the outbreak before it received official recognition.
Wenliang became one of the most visible figures in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan when he tried to sound the alarm about its appearance, but was reprimanded by police for “spreading rumours.”
The 34-year-old’s death from the virus on Feb. 7 led to a rare expressions of anger online and outpouring of public mourning.
However, when President Xi Jinping honoured the “heroes” of the “people’s war” against the virus in September, there was no mention of Li’s contribution.
While people on the streets around Li’s hospital say life in the city has mostly returned to its usual rhythm, they still revere Li for his actions.
“He was the first to tell us about the virus,” said Li Pan, 24, who owns an online store.
“He must have considered the impact would be huge, but he still raised the alarm. That was really brave,” Li said.
Ji Penghui, a 34 year-old designer, said he heard about Li’s warning in the early days and rushed to stock up on masks before the officials spoke openly about the virus.
“The public strongly acknowledges him, and personally, I think he should receive more official honours, rather than being treated as what he did is already in the past” Ji said.
Ji said. though the government made mistakes in the early stages, but it has handled it well since.
The origins of the virus have become highly politicised, and some Chinese diplomats and state media have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.
While 80-year-old Qian Wende said he does not know where the virus came from, he regards Li as a hero.
“We should be commemorating his contribution to fighting the pandemic,” he said.