According to the mainstream narrative, a brave whistleblower in Wuhan was silenced/arrested by the Chinese government when he tried to warn the public about the new coronavirus. The doctor, Li Wenliang, also just died from the virus. While his death is tragic, how truthful is the media’s narrative? Here are the facts:
He was an eye doctor: Dr. Li Wenliang was an ophthalmologist, not a virologist. He was not an expert on virus; and he didn’t have any tangible scientific evidence when he raised the alarm.
He was wrong about the virus: He claimed that SARS had returned, and he was wrong about that.
He didn’t warn the public: A whistle blower, by definition, tries to warn the public. In this case, he sent his opinion to seven of his colleagues in a private chat group. But someone took a screenshot of his messages and posted it in a public forum
He wasn’t the first doctor to warn about the virus and he wasn’t ahead of the government: On the evening of Dec 30, Li Wenliang raised the alarm about the virus. However, what’s not mentioned in the US media is that earlier on the same day, the Chinese CDC (Center for Disease Control) made a public announcement about the new virus and declared a Level 2 emergency response. And the warning was widely shared on Chinese media — here’s an example. (Goes to show there was no coverup or hiding some scary secret).
This was also immediately picked up by the US-based International Society for Infectious Diseases on the same day (Dec 30, 2019):
This above article detailed the warnings from Wuhan Health Committee — “urgent notice on treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause” — and explained how there were 27 cases of the unknown pneumonia and 7 were critically ill. Here’s another screenshot from the article:
More importantly, other Wuhan doctors — Zhang Jixian, in particular — had already noticed warning signs in CT scans of patients and had escalated the issue to Beijing on Dec 26 — four days before Dr. Li shared his ideas on the chat group.
Thus, what happened is that Dr. Li read the government publication and concluded that SARS had returned. By the way, he wasn’t the only one. Even some US journalists came to the same wrong conclusion. Below is a tweet from an American journalist on Dec 31. Is she a “whistleblower” too? Of course not.
Here’s the timeline of all the major virus-related events from a paper published by the renowned New England Journal of Medicine:
The government didn’t hide anything: The government followed scientific procedures. It couldn’t say anything concrete about the virus until a full genomic sequence was concluded, which was published on Jan 10. It takes some time to figure out what the virus is, how it behaves, how dangerous it is, where it came from, whether it can jump from humans to humans etc. Originally, the understanding was it came from the Wuhan wet market where wild life was sold.
Thus, on Dec 30, the Chinese government informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about a new virus; and then on Dec 31, the government shut down that so-called sea food market.
Dr. Li was not arrested: While some media makes sensational claims, he was only reprimanded and made to sign a document saying that he wouldn’t spread rumors. This is a very strange thing in China, for sure. The police could have simply asked his boss to warn him.
Hindsight is 20-20: Of course, looking back, the government and scientists could have warned the hospitals in Wuhan, told the staff to wear masks, and helped them identify and isolate the coronavirus patients. However, at that point — in late December — nobody had died from the virus and the sample size of patients was only about 40. Tough call.
While it’s sad that the doctor died from the virus, there’s also a lot of geopolitics involved here. The US media is rushing to compare this to Chernobyl and fantasizing about angry Chinese people rising and overthrowing the communist party. Sensationalism and fake news always triumph calm analysis …
P.S. While the West cries crocodile tears for alleged whistleblowers in China, look what’s happening in the US. Doctors and nurses are getting fired for speaking out against the lack of masks and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in hospitals (example: Seattle doctor fired). And Brett Crozier — the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt — was fired because he spoke out about the rising coronavirus cases in the ship.