Chinese remember whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang on Weibo 3 years after his persecution

The doctor was reprimanded by the Chinese authorities for warning his classmates about the spread of a new virus, which later turned out to be Covid.

Winnie Li | January 04, 2023, 07:02 PM

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Chinese netizens paid their respects to Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who alerted his classmates about Covid and who subsequently passed away due to the virus, by commenting on his Weibo on Jan. 3.

The date marked the third anniversary of Li's receipt of the Reprimand Letter from Chinese authorities, which warned Li to stop posting "untruthful opinions" online and threatened legal repercussions if he did.

Image via Li Wenliang's Weibo

Updated Li on latest developments in China

With China scrapping most of its Covid measures as it made a sudden U-turn on its zero-Covid policy, many commenters took the opportunity to "update" Li about the changes happening in the country.

Here are some comments they left (translated from Chinese):

"Just wanted to share this with Dr Li: we have chosen to live with Covid at last."

"Dr Li, many things have changed over the last three years. People have undergone countless lockdowns and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for a long time, but they are all gone now. Many of them were infected with Covid, and the hospitals were crowded with patients in distress. Nevertheless, many others have recovered, the streets have regained their liveliness, and all of us are full of cheer. Dr Li, everything will become better, right?"

"Dr Li, [the control measures for the] pandemic have finally been lifted after three years. I hope there is no more pain in heaven."

"Mr Li, the lockdowns are finally over after three years. We don't know what the future holds for us, but I hope everyone can stay safe!"

"Good morning, Dr Li! 2023 is here, and I have recovered [from Covid]. As I have only recovered recently, I felt shivers when I returned home from my afternoon outing. I was scared, but it turned out alright in the end. Additionally, fireworks are now allowed in many cities, so we could finally start to feel the vibe of Chinese New Year."

Netizens also didn't forget to share with Li the good news that one of his favourite TV series, "Joy of Life", will be launching its season 2 soon.

Friendly catch-ups

A few Weibo users also remembered Li by speaking to him about their personal circumstances as if he was a friend.

"Dr Li, I am at a wedding now. I feel so bored. I want to go home and play."

"Dr Li, I started to study Chinese medicine so that I can save myself and my family."

"Dr Li, I just recovered from Covid, but I don't feel as healthy as before."

Criticising the Chinese authorities

Besides sharing with Li the newest developments happening around them, netizens also expressed their dissatisfaction with the authorities' mistreatment of Li in 2020 and attempts to conceal critical information from the public.

"Dr Li, how much better would it be if the authorities didn't lie."

“If sharp criticisms disappear completely, mild criticisms will then become harsh. If mild criticisms are no longer allowed, silence will be considered ill-intended. If silence is no longer permitted, not praising fervently enough will become a crime. If only one perspective is allowed to exist, then such a perspective is a lie.”

"[As long as] humankind does not go extinct, [we will] not forget all these absurdities."

"Even speaking the truth amongst your classmates will get you into trouble. [I] really don't know what to say about this."

"Dr Li, today marks the third anniversary of you getting reprimanded. [I] wonder what the two police officers who reprimanded you thought about everything that has happened since then."

Nationwide outpouring of grief

Li's death in early 2020 had sparked a nationwide outpouring of grief, and a rare apology from the authorities.

News of his passing was also speculated to have been delayed after Chinese state media outlets such as Global Times retracted its report on his death, while other outlets subsequently reported that Li was still alive.

Li was hailed as a whistle-blower who was wrongly persecuted, despite him not necessarily wanting the public to know of his warning -- in Li's correspondence with some other doctors in a chat group, he had specifically told them to keep the information to themselves.

Nevertheless, his persecution by the authorities was seen by many as an unjust and heavy-handed persecution of a hero who was simply telling the truth.

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Top images via GHuangzhixiong's and Xuzhou Cultural Tourism's Weibo pages.