Health workers must have permission to speak freely if China is to learn and move forward after the pandemic
- The death of coronavirus whistle-blower Li Wenliang sparked social media anger and spread of the ‘I want freedom of speech’ hashtag
- Chinese public glad to see the removal of Li’s boss at last but the page is not yet turned
Whether the shake-up was punishment for Cai was unclear. But many online users said they had waited months to see Cai’s removal. Posts with the hashtag about her exit were read at least 130 million times on Weibo by Monday.
The authorities enshrined Li as a martyr and allowed a small window for the public to vent their frustrations by leaving less radical notes on Li’s Weibo account, as well as in some online posts against Cai.
Following Li’s death, there was a brief period when Wuhan doctors appeared emboldened to speak to the domestic press. But that window was closed weeks later and they were quiet except for some reports praising the government’s efforts. Wuhan doctors contacted by South China Morning Post reporters previously said they could not speak to the media without government approval.
Ai wrote a Weibo post on Monday saying morale at the hospital was low and that she hoped the new leader could bring changes.
The authorities may want the hospital to turn the page, but unless China’s health care workers can speak freely, the country has yet to learn from the painful lesson of Li’s tragedy.