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Coronavirus

China withdraws reprimand of virus whistleblower

Beijing calls for disciplining police over 'improper' punishment of Li Wenliang

The death of Li Wenliang in February sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage in China.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- Chinese authorities on Thursday retracted the reprimand issued to a Wuhan doctor who tried to sound the alarm about the novel coronavirus early in the outbreak and came to be widely seen as a martyr after his death from the disease.

The National Supervisory Commission concluded after an investigation that the admonition of Li Wenliang was "improper" and did not follow appropriate law-enforcement procedures. It called for punishing the Wuhan police, who issued the reprimand.

Local security officials withdrew the reprimand and apologized to Li's family.

Li, an ophthalmologist, began noticing cases of pneumonia of unknown origin in December and sent warnings to fellow doctors on social media about the illness, which resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome. The SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003 sickened thousands and killed hundreds in China and beyond.

Wuhan authorities summoned Li on Jan. 3 and forced him to sign a letter accusing him of spreading misinformation online and disrupting the social order.

Li later contracted the virus and died on Feb. 7. The ensuing outcry among netizens likely contributed to the government's about-face on his punishment.

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