Wuhan remembers 'whistleblower' doctor a year on

It has been a year since Li Wenliang, the "whistleblower" doctor who first warned about the COVID-19 outbreak, died from the virus.

Li was an ophthalmologist at a hospital in the city who tried to sound the alarm about the virus' appearance but was reprimanded by authorities for quote "spreading rumours".

His death from COVID-19 on February 7 last year led to an outpouring of public mourning and rare expressions of anger online.

Wuhan residents like 24-year-old Li Pan remember the doctor's action:

"He must have considered the impact would be huge, but he still raised the alarm to the public."

Another resident Ji Penghui said he heard about Li's warning in the early days and rushed to stock up on masks before the officials spoke openly about the virus.

He added that the government made mistakes in the early stages, but believed it has handled the pandemic well since.

Several days after Li's death, renowned epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan shed tears for Li in an interview with Reuters:

"He is the hero of China."

But when President Xi Jinping honored the "heroes" who fought against the virus in September last year, there was no mention of Li's contribution.

As Reuters journalists visited the area around the hospital on Saturday (February 6) they were followed by two men in plainclothes who identified themselves as "hospital parking security."

Local guards also blocked a cameraman from filming the hospital entrance.

Meanwhile, World Health Organization team is currently in Wuhan researching the early stages of the outbreak.

Team member Dominic Dwyer told Reuters on Friday (February 5) that the team is preparing to present its findings.

The origins of the virus have become highly politicized, and some Chinese diplomats and state media have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.

Video Transcript

- It has been a year since Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor, who first warned about the COVID-19 outbreak, died from the virus. Li was an ophthalmologist at a hospital in the city, who tried to sound the alarm about the virus' appearance, but was reprimanded by authorities for quote, "spreading rumors." His death from COVID-19 on February 7 last year led to an outpouring of public mourning and rare expressions of anger online.

Wuhan residents, like 24-year-old Li Pan, remember the doctor's action.

[LI PAN SPEAKING MANDERIN]

TRANSLATOR: He must have considered the impact would be huge, but he still raised the alarm to the public.

[JI PENGHUI SPEAKING MANDERIN]

- Another resident, Ji Penghui said he heard about Li's warning in the early days and rushed to stock up on masks before the officials spoke openly about the virus. He added that the government made mistakes in the early stages, but believed it has handled the pandemic well since.

Several days after Li's death, renowned epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan shed tears for Li in an interview with Reuters.

ZHONG NANSHAN: He's the hero of China.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- But when President Xi Jinping honored the heroes who fought against the virus in September last year, there was no mention of Li's contribution. As Reuters journalist visited the area around the hospital on Saturday, they were followed by two men in plain clothes who identified themselves as hospital parking security. Local guards also blocked a cameraman from filming the hospital entrance.

Meanwhile, a World Health Organization team is currently in Wuhan researching the early stages of the outbreak. Team member, Dominic Dwyer told Reuters on Friday that the team is preparing to present its findings. The origins of the virus have become highly politicized, and some Chinese diplomats and state media have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.