Chinese authorities initially reprimanded him for “rumor-mongering,” but made gestures to praise Li following an outpouring of grief upon his death.
On Feb. 6, another five medical workers in Yunnan Province were punished for revealing the truth about the outbreak on WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform.
On Feb. 6, People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s mouthpiece newspaper, reported that medical workers, identified only by their surnames of Wen, Xie, Guan, at the Wenshan Prefecture Hospital in Yunnan Province took videos of infected patients.
Meanwhile, Liu and Yu of Wenshan City Hospital shared those videos on WeChat. Wen, Yu, Liu, and Xie were sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention and a fine of 500 yuan ($71.53), while Guan was only fined 500 yuan ($71.53).
Chinese authorities’ efforts to censor information sparked a backlash on the internet.
“The CCP system has completely lost its ability to correct itself. It would be foolish to expect them to have a conscience,” one netizen wrote.
Another said: “Li Wenliang just died, and they [authorities] are persecuting medical workers who tell the truth again!”
Li, an ophthalmologist, died of the coronavirus in Wuhan in the morning on Feb. 7, after being diagnosed with the virus five days earlier. He contracted after unknowingly treating an infected person.
He was among a group of people who first shared on Chinese social media about an “unknown pneumonia” outbreak among seven patients at the hospital where we worked, on Dec. 30 last year. A day later, the Wuhan Health Commission confirmed the outbreak.
Later, a local police station summoned Li and reprimanded him for revealing the information.
But netizens saw the latest punishment on the Yunnan medical staff as a sign that the authorities are still more concerned about its image. “So you still expect the government to improve in this outbreak? Stop dreaming.”
“[The CCP] is running towards its own demise,” another said.