Li Wenliang, the doctor who was among the first to warn about the coronavirus outbreak in late December — only to be silenced by the police — died on Friday after becoming infected with the virus, the hospital treating him reported.
The death of the 34-year-old doctor set off an outpouring of grief and anger on social media, with commenters on Weibo, a Twitter-like website, demanding an apology from the authorities to Dr. Li and his family.
China’s ruling Communist Party, bending to public pressure, said on Friday that it would send a team from its powerful anti-corruption committee to investigate the issues surrounding the whistle-blower doctor, who had died hours earlier in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
Last week, Elsie Chen, a Times researcher working with our correspondents Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers, interviewed Dr. Li. He caught the virus from a patient and was hospitalized when Ms. Chen interviewed him on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, via the WeChat social media platform.
Here are some edited and condensed excerpts from the interview:
When did you first realize that this new virus was highly contagious? It seemed that you hadn’t taken any precautions when you were infected.
I knew it when the patient I came in contact with infected her family, and I was infected right afterward. Thus I discovered it was highly contagious. The patient had no symptoms, so I got careless.
How did you feel when the police accused you of spreading rumors?
The police believed this virus was not confirmed to be SARS. They believed I was spreading rumors. They asked me to acknowledge that I was at fault.
I felt I was being wronged, but I had to accept it. Obviously I had been acting out of good will. I felt very sad seeing so many people losing their loved ones.
- The New York Times