A Chinese doctor who tried to issue the first warnings about the deadly coronavirus outbreak has died, the hospital treating him has said.
Li Wenliang contracted the virus while working at Wuhan Central Hospital.
He had sent out a warning to fellow medics on 30 December but police told him to stop “making false comments”.
There had been contradictory reports about his death, but the People’s Daily now says he died at 02:58 on Friday (18:58 GMT Thursday).
The virus has killed 636 people and infected 31,161 in mainland China, the National Health Commission’s latest figures show.
The death toll includes 73 new deaths reported on Thursday.
The virus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.
Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.
We deeply mourn the death of #Wuhan doctor Li wenliang, who unfortunately got infected with novel #Coronavirus while battling with the epidemic. After all-effort rescue, Li passed away on 2:58 am, Feb. 7. pic.twitter.com/mbYA3wB4pn
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) February 6, 2020
What is Li Wenliang’s story?
Dr Li, an ophthalmologist, posted his story on Weibo from a hospital bed a month after sending out his initial warning.
The 34-year-old had noticed seven cases of a virus that he thought looked like Sars – the virus that led to a global epidemic in 2003.
On 30 December he sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection.
Four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”.
He was one of eight people who police said were being investigated for “spreading rumours” Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li.
In his Weibo post he describes how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in hospital. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus on 30 January.
How has China reacted?
An overwhelmingly wave of anger and grief flooded Chinese social media site Weibo when news of Dr Li’s death broke late on Thursday.
The top two trending hashtags on the website were “Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang and apology” and “We want freedom of speech”.
Both hashtags were quickly censored. When the BBC scoured Weibo on Friday morning, hundreds of thousands of comments had already been wiped out.
Many have now taken to posting under the hashtag “Can you manage, do you understand?” – a reference to the letter Dr Li was told to sign where he was accused of disturbing “social order”.
Only a handful of critical comments now remain – many of which do not directly name him – but are an indication of the mounting anger and distrust towards the Chinese government.
“Do not forget how you feel now. Do not forget this anger. We must not let this happen again,” said one comment on Weibo.
“The truth will always be treated as a rumour. How long are you going to lie? Are you still lying? What else do you have to hide?” another said. (BBC)