Coronavirus shows importance of whistleblowers

Dr. Li Wenliang hospitalized in Wuhan, China, in January 2020.


During a trip to China in 2018, we were watching BBC News in our hotel room. When the anchorman started to talk about something going on in the country’s western provinces, the screen went blank. After a minute or so, the picture returned. The newscaster had moved on to the next story.

The next day, we mentioned the interruption to one of our tour guides. “The government wants us to be happy,” the guide said with a wry, tight-lipped smile. “So they try not to show us things that would make us unhappy.”

I recalled that exchange last week when I heard about the fate of Li Wenliang, a Chinese doctor who tried to sound the alarm about the new virus now spreading around the world.

Li was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. On Dec. 30, he took to WeChat to warn fellow doctors that several patients from a local market had come down with an illness resembling SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).


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