Beijing, May 6 (PTI) A senior Chinese official on Wednesday took exception to the US labelling a COVID-19 whistle-blower doctor in Wuhan as a 'rebel', saying it amounted to 'utter disrespect' for the deceased ophthalmologist and his family.
Dr Li Wenliang, 34, contracted the deadly virus while working at the Wuhan Central Hospital in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Li had sent out a warning to fellow medics on December 30 but Chinese police told him to stop 'making false comments'.
Li, who became a national hero after the coronavirus engulfed Wuhan, sadly died of the COVID-19 after he was infected by it.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying criticised US Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger for highlighting Li's actions to criticise China.
“I want to take this opportunity to say there is a wrong inclination in the US that some people think Dr. Li as a figure confronting the (Chinese) system”.
She said Dr Li posted messages on social media about the coronavirus three days after China’s top virus expert Zhong Nanshan notified the cases.
“Dr Li was a good person. Some people in the US hastily labelled him as a rebel. This is a disrespect” to him, she said.
'Some reports unfairly reported..that he didn’t enjoy freedom in China. But that is not true. We hope the US can stop such political manipulation because this is utter disrespect for Dr. Li and his family,' Hua said.
Pottinger said Dr Li's “small act of bravery, in late December, was to pass along a warning via WeChat to his former medical school classmates that patients afflicted by a dangerous new virus were turning up in Wuhan hospitals.' He said Dr Li later went public with his experience of being silenced by the police, causing the world to pay close attention to the coronavirus infection.
'When small acts of bravery are stamped out by governments, big acts of bravery follow,' Pottinger said.
Li's death from the virus in February prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger at the government's handling of the crisis, and bold demands for freedom of speech, surprising authorities.
Embarrassed by the police action against Li which drew public criticism, a special investigation ordered by the Chinese government after his death revoked the letter of reprimand and apologised to his family.
He was also listed as one of the martyrs who died fighting the virus in Wuhan. PTI KJV NSA