Coronavirus Whistleblower Who Was Discredited and Silenced Dies From the Illness at 34
Li Wenliang, a doctor who was demonized by the Chinese communists after he exposed the truth about the Coronavirus outbreak, has died from the virus at the age of 34.
Wenliang worked as an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital when he released an urgent bulletin to medics in the hospital on Dec. 30. Police showed up and attempted to intimidate him into silence after the fact, as China attempted to keep the outbreak under wraps.
The pandemic has now killed over 560 people and infected 28,000 in China. Wenliang is now among the victims of the deadly virus that some have said looks to be created as some sort of a bioweapon.
When Wenliang became aware of the coronavirus, he noted seven cases of a virus in his hospital that reminded him of SARS, which led to a global pandemic back in 2003. The coronavirus has already far outpaced SARS in terms of deadliness, just weeks after it was discovered.
He told his fellow doctors to take special precautions, including wearing protective clothing, in order to avoid infection. The communists would attempt to force him to sign a letter indicating he was “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order.” Wenliang was under investigation for “spreading rumors,” but the police would later apologize for hassling him.
Wenliang noted in a Weibo post that he started exhibiting symptoms for coronavirus on Jan. 10. It took until Jan. 30 for Wenliang to be formally diagnosed with coronavirus, and he was dead less than a week later. Chinese health authorities have claimed that coronavirus is primarily a threat to the elderly and people who are already sick, but Wenliang’s untimely death casts doubt on their story.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak as authoritarian in how they have quarantined the Wuhan province. They accuse the Chinese communists of “treating public health with a sledgehammer.”
“There’s no place for secrecy in fighting an epidemic,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said.
“Quarantines of this sort typically don’t work. Quarantines, the kind that public health officials advocate, are much more targeted. They’re aimed at people who have been identified as having the virus,” he said.
Big League Politics has reported about news of a state-of-the-art research laboratory for the study of dangerous pathogens that was founded in Wuhan shortly before the coronavirus outbreak started.
Mainstream publications wrote at the time about how the facility was controversial and how critics thought it could lead to the outbreak of airborne disease:
A laboratory in Wuhan is on the cusp of being cleared to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. The move is part of a plan to build between five and seven biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) labs across the Chinese mainland by 2025, and has generated much excitement, as well as some concerns.
Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping, and the addition of a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations. But Chinese microbiologists are celebrating their entrance to the elite cadre empowered to wrestle with the world’s greatest biological threats.
“It will offer more opportunities for Chinese researchers, and our contribution on the BSL‑4-level pathogens will benefit the world,” says George Gao, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology in Beijing. There are already two BSL-4 labs in Taiwan, but the National Bio-safety Laboratory, Wuhan, would be the first on the Chinese mainland…
Many staff from the Wuhan lab have been training at a BSL-4 lab in Lyon, which some scientists find reassuring. And the facility has already carried out a test-run using a low-risk virus.
But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.
Yuan says that he has worked to address this issue with staff. “We tell them the most important thing is that they report what they have or haven’t done,” he says. And the lab’s international collaborations will increase openness. “Transparency is the basis of the lab,” he adds.
Wenliang suffered immensely in his final days for doing the right thing, which is a common thread in authoritarian communist regimes.