On Dec. 30, 2019, Li, an ophthalmologist
at a hospital in Wuhan where the Sars-CoV-2 virus outbreak was first detected,
saw a medical report showing potential SARS coronavirus cases were confirmed in
the city, he wrote in a post on his Weibo account on Jan. 31.
In early January, after the information
on “SARS cases” was shared in a WeChat group, Li was reprimanded by
the local police, according to the same Weibo post.
On Jan. 12 he went to hospital, infected
with the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease and died on Feb. 7, 2020.
His death led to an outpouring of grief
on social media at a time when people were on edge about the virus and
authorities were under fire over a perceived lack of transparency and a
hardline approach taken to whistleblowers like Li.
Since then confidence has grown in
China’s response to the pandemic, but people have continued to post to Li
online, especially on certain anniversary days as they did on Thursday.
“Happy new year Dr. Li, we will
remember you forever,” wrote a user called Tdby.
Others posted candle emojis, brief
messages of thanks and exclamations of how two years have gone by so quickly,
in the comments section of one of Li’s posts on Weibo, China’s equivalent of
Twitter. Many wrote conversationally as if they were speaking to him beyond the
Fang Kecheng from the Chinese University
of Hong Kong said Li’s Weibo microblog has become a place online where people
express their feelings they are not comfortable expressing elsewhere.
“Such places for anonymous
expression are needed in any society, and this is especially true in today’s
China,” said the communication researcher.
Mainland China has reported 101,683
confirmed cases as of Dec. 28, with the death toll at 4,636.