House Republicans say Chinese doctor and coronavirus whistleblower deserves Congressional Gold Medal

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Republicans in Congress want to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Li Wenliang, the Chinese whistleblower doctor who warned about early coronavirus cases in December 2019, was silenced by the authorities, and, soon after, contracted COVID-19 himself and died.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas was joined by other representatives in introducing a bill on Monday to honor the deceased doctor with the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow, saying he deserved it “in recognition of his efforts to save lives by drawing awareness to COVID-19 and his call for transparency in China.” Li died just over a year ago, on Feb. 7, 2020.

“Dr. Li Wenliang was the brave doctor from Wuhan, China, who first sounded the alarm about the spread of COVID-19,” Roy told the Washington Examiner. “After trying to warn his colleagues about the outbreak, Dr. Li Wenliang was detained and interrogated by the Chinese Communist Party, who tried to silence him. In the face of those intense threats, Dr. Li continued to warn others and treat Wuhan patients until he tragically succumbed to the virus himself.”

Li, a doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital, posted a warning on WeChat in late December 2019, warning of “confirmed SARS-like cases from the wet market” and “quarantines” at the hospital. The Wuhan Public Security Bureau rounded up numerous whistleblowers, including Li, bringing them in for questioning on Jan. 3, 2020, after they posted warnings about a coronavirus outbreak on WeChat, and they signed “confession letters” admitting to “false comments” that “severely disturbed the social order.”

The letter from Chinese authorities read, in part: “We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice — is that understood?” Li wrote, “Yes, I do.”

In an effort to silence any other would-be truth-tellers, Chinese state-run Xinhua News warned citizens that “the police call on all netizens to not fabricate rumors, not spread rumors, not believe rumors.”

The week before he died, Li spoke with the New York Times about his battle with the disease and with Chinese authorities, arguing, “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.” He added: “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 goodwill. I felt very sad seeing so many people losing their loved ones.”

As news of Li’s death spread across China last year, the Chinese social media app Weibo erupted with viral hashtags seen by millions of users in China, which translated to “We want freedom of speech” and “The Wuhan government owes Li Wenliang an apology.”

Roy said, “Awarding Congress’s highest civilian award to Dr. Li would not only honor his brave actions, but also call global attention to the Chinese Communist Party’s lack of transparency, censorship of speech, and unquestionable role in unleashing this pandemic on the world.”

There is significant evidence that China covered up the coronavirus’s spread, muzzled whistleblowers, intimidated doctors, misled the World Health Organization, and blocked outside health experts from investigating. China knew by late 2019 that human-to-human transmission was occurring, but on Jan. 14, the WHO tweeted, “Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”

A September report from the GOP’s House Foreign Affairs China Task Force contended that the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged coronavirus cover-up and the WHO’s incompetence and complicity allowed the coronavirus outbreak to grow into a lengthy and deadly pandemic.

“It is beyond doubt that the CCP actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” the GOP report said. “By responding in a transparent and responsible manner, the CCP could have supported the global public health response and shared information with the world about how to handle the virus. It is likely the ongoing pandemic could have been prevented had they done so.”

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