Coronavirus: Death of Chinese doctor sparks row

Coronavirus: Death of Chinese doctor sparks row

Agency News

The death of a Chinese doctor who tried to warn about the coronavirus outbreak has sparked a row in China which resulted in the public anger and protest.

Li Wenliang died of the virus in the early hours of Friday morning local time, Wuhan Central Hospital, where he worked, said in a statement. The confirmation follows a series of conflicting statements about his condition from the hospital and Chinese state media outlets.

The anger turned into protest after the beloved doctor Li Wenliang died after contracting the virus while treating patients in Wuhan. He is also known as a whistleblower doctor for his outspoken nature on truth.

Li was among a number of supposed "rumormongers" detained in December for spreading news about the virus. He had warned about a potential "SARS-like" virus spreading in Wuhan. Nothing Li said was incorrect, but it came as officials in the city were downplaying the severity of the outbreak and its risk to the public. But he was told by police to "stop making false comments" and was investigated for "spreading rumours". News of his death was met with an intense outpouring of grief on Chinese social media site Weibo - but this quickly turned into anger.

There had already been accusations against the government of downplaying the severity of the virus - and initially trying to keep it secret. Dr Li's death fuelled this further and triggered a conversation about the lack of freedom of speech in China. The country's anti-corruption body said it will open an investigation into "issues involving Dr Li".