03/20/2020, 14.56
CHINA
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Wuhan Public Security Bureau apologises to Li Wenliang's family over ‘inappropriate reprimand’

by Bernardo Cervellera

The doctor, who died of coronavirus, had reported the outbreak in December, but was silenced by the police. Two Wuhan police officers get a demerit and a warning. The investigation into the affair claims the coronavirus was first reported in late December, but government sources note that the first cases date back to 17 November. Official narrative tries to save Xi Jinping and the Party. An anonymous comment slams the inquiry as “shameless”.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued an apology to the family of Dr Li Wenliang for its "inappropriate reprimand".

Li Wenliang is the physician who warned his colleagues and hospital authorities in December 2019 about a SARS-like pneumonia that was spreading in China.

Once alerted, police reprimanded Dr Li, an ophthalmologist, for spreading “fake news” and disturbing public order and forced him to keep silent.

Wuhan Central Hospital, where Dr Li worked, threatened to fire him. This is the same medical facility that became the epicentre of the outbreak and where the whistle-blower doctor contracted coronavirus from a patient and died on 6 February.

The People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, reported the apology by the police, which announced it on its official Sina Weibo account.

The city’s Public Security Bureau later said that the deputy head of the police station Yang Li had been given a demerit, and police officer Hu Guifeng a warning.

The apology and disciplinary measures, together with the revoking of the reprimand against Li Wenliang, came shortly after the release of the findings of an investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection into the police station responsible for Dr Li’s admonition.

The Commission found that the Zhongnan Road station had “issued improper instructions,” followed “irregular” law enforcement procedures, and issued an “inappropriate reprimand”. It recommended disciplinary action against those responsible.

The investigation was sparked by the outrage caused by Dr Li’s death which began trending on social media with more than 600 million visits and demands for justice for the late physician as well as freedom of expression for every Chinese.

In theory freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but some of the people who spoke in favour of free speech are now in prison, under house arrest, or simply missing.

The investigation dealt minimally with Li Wenliang’s case, ignoring the underlying injustice that followed his death. It also endorsed the idea that the first warnings about the coronavirus began in late December. This would fit with the narrative that Chinese President Xi Jinping gave orders to tackle the outbreak as early as 7 January.

This, however, is contradicted by government data, cited by the South China Morning Post of 13 March 2020, which suggest that the first cases of COVID-19 appeared on 17 November, two months before the government raised the alarm and took action starting on 23 January.

According to the Global Times, a daily tabloid associated with the People's Daily, the apology to Li Wenliang's family received more than 600,000 comments, almost all “positive,” with “very few [who] point fingers or make accusations.”

On Xinhua, an unnamed official involved in the inquiry noted that Li Wenliang was a member of the Communist Party and warned that "hostile forces" were trying to attack the Party and the government, depicting Dr Li as "an anti-establishment hero.”

Conversely, an anonymous comment about the investigation’s report calls it “shameless”.

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