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10 Wuhan Professors Signed An Open Letter Demanding Free Speech Protections After A Doctor Who Was Punished For Warning Others About Coronavirus Died From It

At the beginning of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, local physician Li Wenliang alerted his medical school alumni group via the messaging application WeChat about the discovery of a SARS-like disease.

Author:Andrew Stevenson
Reviewer:Johnathan Miller
Jan 26, 2023
  • The Chinese government should apply its own freedom of language content to the People's Republic of China Constitution, according to an open letter signed by ten academics from Wuhan.
  • The letter comes after Li Wenliang, a doctor from Wuhan, left the city after receiving a punishment from the police for "making fake remarks" after informing people about the Wuhan coronavirus, which he later contracted.
  • The government is urged in the open letter and another letter written by academics across China to express regret, pay coronavirus whistleblowers, and designate Li as a national martyr.
At the beginning of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, local physician Li Wenliang alerted his medical school alumni group via the messaging application WeChat about the discovery of a SARS-like disease.
He was then chastised by Wuhan police and required to sign a paper stating he had made "false statements" against the Chinese internet.
The authenticity of Li's warning was confirmed, and the Wuhan coronavirus has killed at least 720 people and infected over 34,500 around the world. Li, 34, died on February 6 after contracting the virus while handling individuals.
After his departure, professors from around China signed open letters to the Chinese government.
Ten Wuhan academics signed a letter demanding that the government enforce its own freedom of language provisions in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, as well as apologizing for not compensating eight coronavirus whistleblowers.
Screenshots disseminated on Twitter by the French scholar Sebastian Veg, who studies the intellectual history of 20th-century China, are believed to have been obtained from the Chinese internet.
They reveal the professors' signatures as well as excerpts from the open letter, which cites Articles 35 and 51 of the Chinese Constitution.
Sebastian Veg's Twitter post showing professors' signatures
Sebastian Veg's Twitter post showing professors' signatures
Article 35 states that Chinese citizens "enjoy the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of livelihood, and of course expression," while Article 51 states that the exercise of Chinese citizens' rights "must not infringe upon the interests of their nation, of society, and of the collective, or upon the liberty and rights of other citizens."
The open letter reads based on an English translation from the non-profit China Change:
For thirty years the Chinese are forced to surrender their liberty in exchange for security, and they fall prey into a public health catastrophe and therefore are less secure than ever.
A humanitarian catastrophe is upon us. The rate with which the rest of the planet is repelled by China is quicker compared to the spread of this virus, leaving China in unprecedented worldwide isolation.

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The open letter requests that the Chinese government recognize Li as a national martyr. A second petition written by nine Chinese academics proposed that February 6 be designated as "National Freedom of Speech Day" in Li's honor.
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