The public reached a verdict long ago on Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor and “whistle-blower” whose death from Covid-19 on February 7 sparked national outrage, after it emerged he had been disciplined for acting on his own initiative to alert colleagues to the emergence of a new coronavirus. He became a hero to the people of a spreading health emergency that was soon to be declared a pandemic. The city’s public security bureau has finally reflected this popular sentiment to a degree, with a statement that it was withdrawing an official reprimand issued to Li and saying it would learn lessons from the case. This was after a state investigation team found that a local police station had mishandled the matter by issuing improper instructions and following irregular procedures, according to a report released by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. As a result, the deputy head of the police station and a police officer have been given a demerit and a warning, respectively. Li began warning of the disease in an article circulated to colleagues on WeChat on December 30, in which he said seven cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) were confirmed in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. His death after becoming infected himself prompted nationwide tributes, with intellectuals and academics demanding more freedom of speech, and claiming the crisis may have been prevented if Li had been free to go on warning his colleagues. Despite the apology, the investigation team found that although Li did not intend to disturb public order, he had not verified his information and this was “not consistent with the actual situation at that time”. Wuhan police apologise to family of coronavirus whistle-blower Not surprisingly this qualified finding prompted Li’s admirers to leave messages on the doctor’s Weibo page expressing their disappointment. That said, the significance of the apology is not to be dismissed. It officially clears the doctor and concedes there are lessons to be learned. We trust that one of them is a reminder that people’s safety is paramount. Another is that transparency can be instrumental in ensuring safety, no matter how inconvenient this may be at times for officials trying to control the narrative. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.