Dr. Li Wenliang, a 33-year old Ophthalmologist, died from the novel coronavirus on February 7 at the Wuhan Central Hospital in Hubei, where he worked.
Dr. Li had risen to light in recent weeks when he tried to warn, and spread awareness, on social media about a reported illness related to SARS in December. He was quickly reprimanded by the Wuhan police for “spreading rumors” and was dubbed a “rumormonger.” Dr. Li was forced to sign a statement taking back his claims, along with seven others.
Since then the Supreme People’s Court said the claims were not entirely false and they (the eight individuals) “should not have been punished.”
"It might have been a fortunate thing if the public had believed the 'rumors' then and started to wear masks and carry out sanitization measures, and avoid the wild animal market," China’s top court social media account said on February 4.
He was considered a hero for releasing information about the epidemic during the early stages by Zeng Guang, China Center for Disease Control’s chief scientist.
Dr. Li started showing signs of the virus on January 8 after coming into contact with a patient who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. He was hospitalized on January 12.
Dr. Li posted videos and messages on his social media accounts during his quarantine, with the intention of returning to work after he recovered. He went into critical condition on February 6 before dying early February 7.
His death sparked outrage on social media with questions on what would have happened if the public was made aware of the virus sooner and demands for freedom of speech.