While working at a Wuhan Central Hospital, he saw a patient’s report which showed a positive result with a high confidence level for SARS coronavirus tests.

The report contained the phrase “Sars coronavirus”. The report spread throughout medical circles in Wuhan, where it reached him.

Part of Wuhan Central Hospital is located just 2km [1.2 miles] from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the place the first coronavirus patients were linked to.

Puzzled and concerned by this, he decides to share this discovery with his medical school class mates on a private WeChat group [equivalent to WhatsApp].

So at 17:43 on December 30, he sends them a WeChat message:

“7 confirmed cases of SARS were reported [to hospital] from Huanan Seafood Market.

He also posted the patient’s examination report and CT scan image.

At 18:42, he sends another WeChat message to the group:

“The latest news is, it has been confirmed that they are coronavirus infections, but the exact virus strain is being subtyped”.

The sender is a 34-year-old Dr. Li Wenliang.

Li Wenliang typed into a chat group with his former medical school classmates on December 30, according to Caixin, a Beijing-based media group.

Not everyone appreciated Li’s bombshell warnings.

After he shared information about the strange infections he was seeing, he was reprimanded by local authorities for “making untrue comments” and “severely disturbing social order.

On 3 January 2020, police from the Wuhan Public Security Bureau investigated the case and interrogated Li, giving him a warning notice and censuring him for “making false comments on the Internet”.

He was made to sign a letter of admonition promising not to do it again:

The police warned him that if he failed to learn from the admonition and continued to violate the law he would be prosecuted.

His messages about a SARS-like infection conveyed an urgency that undercut the official efforts to downplay the epidemic and its risk to the public.

At the time, Wuhan’s health bureau said there was no evidence of spread between humans.

The reports quotes:

“The investigation so far has not found any obvious human-to-human transmission and no medical staff infection. Detection of the pathogen and investigation of the cause of the infection are ongoing.”

And yet Li was not dissuaded.

He shared his ordeal online and carried out interviews with journalists through text message, conveying a picture of incompetence and mishandling of the virus at the crucial, initial stage of the outbreak.

His insistence on speaking out defied a Chinese political system that does not tolerate dissent.

The infection turned out not to be SARS, but 2019-nCov, a coronavirus in the same deadly family.

On February 07, Dr. Li Wenlian succumbed and died. He was reportedly diagnosed with the coronavirus after treating an infected glaucoma patient.

Dr Li, is an international hero.

He put his life in danger in order to save the lives of people.

If it was not for his whistleblowing who knows how many more lives would have been lost.

Courage is face of opposition, and talking truth to power is what is in short supply today.

One doctor in Li’s chat group said they had always known him to have good judgment, according to one local media outlet.

Many started stocking up on surgical masks and wearing other protective gear at work because of his warning. “He really saved a lot of people,” the doctor said.

The death of Li provoked considerable grief and anger on the social media which became extended to a demand for freedom of speech.

The hashtag #wewantfreedomofspeech gained over 2 million views and over 5,500 posts within 5 hours before it was removed by the censors, as were other related hashtags and posts.

When Li began showing symptoms of the coronavirus illness, he booked a hotel room to avoid the possibility of infecting his family, before being hospitalized on 12 January.

Despite this precaution, his parents became infected with SARS-CoV-2, but later recovered.

Li and his wife, Fu Xuejie, had one son. His wife was pregnant with their second child at the time of his death.

His 2020 New Year’s resolution was to live a more simple life. To see the complexity of the world but leaving no traces of it in his heart and maintaining enough normality.

His WeChat signature was: “The theory is gray, the tree of life is evergreen.”

This is a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which in full says: “All theory, dear friend, is gray, but the golden tree of life springs ever green.” 

The quote simply means: Man may postulate the meaning of life all that he may, but the truth only exists in the complexity that *is* life.

Salute Dr. Li Salute.

Sources: Wikipedia, Gary Liu’s chat with Chris Anderson on TED Connects, South China Morning Post, Caixin, a Beijing-based media group, Weixin, another media outlet, and other online sources.


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