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Whistleblower doctor arrested for raising alarm dies of virus

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BEIJING: A Chinese doctor who was punished after raising the alarm about China’s new coronavirus died from the pathogen on Friday, sparking an outpouring of grief and anger over a worsening crisis that has now killed more than 630 people.

Li Wenliang, 34, died early Friday, Wuhan Central Hospital said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, an announcement that triggered grief on social media — over a doctor who was hailed a hero — and anger over the government’s handling of the crisis.

Li and colleagues had first brought to light in late December.

Li sent out a message about the new coronavirus to colleagues on December 30 in Wuhan — the central city at the epicentre of the crisis  through a chat on the Chinese messaging app WeChat.

On January 3, Chinese authorities summoned Li among eight whistleblowers doctors and accused them of “rumour-mongering”.

“The police call on all netizens to not fabricate rumours, not spread rumours, not believe rumours,” the message read.

The ophthalmologist after signing an affidavit acknowledging the crime and not engage in any such activities returned to work.

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But later contracted the disease while treating a glaucoma patient.

The death of the ophthalmologist sparked an outpouring of grief and anger over a worsening crisis.

Censors appeared to struggle with how to deal with his death.

“I learned two words today: political resuscitation and performative resuscitation,” the top comment of Wuhan Central Hospital’s post reads.

“As a journalist, I refuse to quote the ‘official time of death’ of Dr Li, which is February 7 early morning,” Muyi Xiao, the visual editor at ChinaFile, an online magazine, said on Twitter.

State-run newspaper Global Times and state broadcaster CCTV first reported on Weibo that Li had died late Thursday, only to delete their posts after the death rapidly surged to be among the top topics on the popular platform.

“He is a hero who warned others with his life,” a fellow Wuhan doctor wrote on Weibo after reports of his death emerged.

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