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China: Death of coronavirus whistleblower doctor highlights human rights failings

More than 600 people have been killed and more than 30,000 infected in mainland China.

Responding to the death of Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who was reprimanded by Wuhan police after he tried to issue the first warnings about the coronavirus, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s South-East Asia Regional Director, said:

“The case of Li Wenliang is a tragic reminder of how the Chinese authorities’ preoccupation with maintaining ‘stability’ drives it to suppress vital information about matters of public interest.

“China must learn the lesson from Li’s case and adopt a rights-respecting approach to combating the epidemic.

“Nobody should face harassment or sanctions for speaking out about public dangers, just because it may cause embarrassment to the government.”

Li Wenliang contracted the coronavirus while working at Wuhan Central Hospital. He sent out a warning to fellow medics in late December last year about patients with symptoms similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak that began in southern China in 2002. He was immediately silenced and punished by the local authorities for “spreading rumours”.

The effects of the virus have since been confirmed to have killed more than 600 people and infected more than 30,000 in mainland China, although the real numbers may be far higher.

Amnesty International has documented seven ways the coronavirus outbreak affects human rights here.

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