Doctor Li Wenliang was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist in Wuhan, China. He died in February of Covid-19. In December he heard disturbing reports about people who had become ill after going to a local market. He did some research and his eyes opened horribly wide. The illnesses looked like SARS.
So … what do you do, especially in a country like China, where speaking up is often followed by being shut up? “What will happen to me if tell the truth as I see it? What will happen to my family?”
Doctor Wenliang spoke up.
Li sent a message to his medical-school alumni group on December 30 warning that seven patients had been quarantined at Wuhan Central Hospital after coming down with a respiratory illness that seemed like the SARS coronavirus.
“When I saw them circulating online, I realized that it was out of my control and I would probably be punished,” Li told CNN.
What would it be … a government hit squad knocking down his door and dragging him away in front of his screaming children? His personhood disappearing, due to some “indeterminate cause”?
Doctor Wenliang was no doubt terrified, while remaining absolutely committed to humanity.
The police did come, with a letter for Li to sign:
[We are] now filing an official warning and admonitions to you on the illegal issue of posting untrue statements on the Internet according to the law. Your behavior severely disrupts social order. Your behavior has exceeded the scope permitted by the law and violates the relevant provisions of “The Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People’s Republic of China”, which is an illegal act! The police authority hopes that you can co-operate with our work, listen to the admonishment by the police officers and stop conducting illegal activities.
We hope that you calm down and reflect carefully, and solemnly warn you: if you continue to be stubborn without any regret, and carry out illegal activities, you will be punished by the law! Do you understand?
At the bottom of the letter, Doctor Wenliang signed, and wrote “Yes, I do.”
In a formal statement at this time, the police said they would “investigate and punish with zero tolerance these illegal acts that fabricate and spread rumours and disrupt social order”.
Your light will shine for a very long time, Doctor.