/Coronavirus outbreak: Live updates – CNN International

Coronavirus outbreak: Live updates – CNN International

Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor who was targeted by police for trying to sound the alarm in December, died of the coronavirus late last night.

Grief and anger: Chinese social media has exploded into near-unprecedented levels of grief and fury against the government, with calls for accountability and freedom of speech — sentiments rarely seen in China’s tightly-controlled online sphere.

The topics “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology,” and “We want freedom of speech,” soon began to trend on China’s Twitter-like platform, Weibo, before disappearing from the heavily censored site.

A man stops by a message drawn into the snow that reads, "Farewell to Li Wenliang" in Beijing on Friday.
A man stops by a message drawn into the snow that reads, “Farewell to Li Wenliang” in Beijing on Friday. Credit: Chinatopix/AP

Images from outside the hospital where Li worked show a small memorial has been set up to honor the doctor.

A portrait of Dr. Li Wenliang is left at Li's hospital in Wuhan on Friday.
A portrait of Dr. Li Wenliang is left at Li’s hospital in Wuhan on Friday. Getty Images
 Flowers are left to pay tribute to Dr. Li Wenliang.
 Flowers are left to pay tribute to Dr. Li Wenliang. Getty Images
 A woman grieves while paying tribute outside the hospital where Li worked on Friday.
 A woman grieves while paying tribute outside the hospital where Li worked on Friday. Getty Images

Censors crack down: The public has been angry for weeks that Wuhan officials downplayed the virus and silenced whistleblowers like Li.

But the central authorities were largely able to keep this anger focused on local officials by allowing a rare amount of transparency and giving Chinese media a relatively free hand.

In the past week or so, however, the central authorities have tightened their grip on the flow of information, with state media emphasizing positive stories of resilience and heroism.

A relatable figure: Li resonated with the public because he wasn’t a Party cadre or police officer — he was an ordinary person who loved ice cream and TV. He’s infinitely more sympathetic than the steely-eyed men and women trying to control the narrative around his death.

Read the full analysis here.