In memory of Li Wenliang, victim of coronavirus and Chinese censorship

On February 6th, ophtalmologist Li Wenliang, 34, died in Wuhan. One of the many victims of the Novel Coronavirus which has hit the Chinese people. Wenliang was not an activist, but a hero for the way in which he and the many other frontline carers are treating and assisting the sick in this moment, not abashed by the evil regime that just over a month ago arrested him and 7 other medics for daring to “spread rumors” about the epidemic that was affecting the region. 

Their arrest, and the subsequent warning to remain silent, took place after the government-party had already warned the World Health Organization (WHO). The Chinese Communist Party, whose mouthpiece press had described him and his colleagues at the beginning of January as social agitators, today define him as a“whistleblower”, in an attempt to claim him for the pride of the party and a continuing effort to divert the blame of the people from the central to the local government. 

Speculation on Wenliang by the Party-State continued even in the hours of his death. First with the announcement of his passing, followed by denials and news launches on the extraordinary care he was receiving, and then again with the announcement of his passing after the clear guidelines imparted on the media on how to avoid giving prominence to the news, make it disappear slowly from search engines, and, above all, monitor the “social temperature” in the comments. 

Today the Chinese people are not only facing the uncertainty and fear for their own safety and that of their family, mourning the deaths of loved ones and facing a difficult economic horizon due to this epidemic; their leaders have insisted to speculate even on the time of death of their hero. This time it may be too much. On Chinese social media, for as long as they are operational and accounts remain unblocked, there has been an avalanche of messages of respect for Wenliang and indignation towards the regime. The hashtag #freedomofspeech appears to have gone viral. 

According to some sources, Dr. Wenliang’s parting message would have been: “A healthy society should not have only one voice”. We hope his message will not fall on deaf ears in the West, and that we can prove ourselves truly close to the Chinese people, rather than succumbing to the gag of the Chinese Communist Party as well. 

Laura Harth

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