Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistleblower of the coronavirus, died on February 7th local time in China. He had been reprimanded by officials after warning about the disease in December. He was only 34 years old.
Since his initial warning, there have been more than 28,275 global reported cases of the coronavirus, of those 28,000 in China. The number of cases grew by 3,694 or 15% just from Wednesday to Thursday. There have been 565 deaths so far, all but two of which were in China.
Reddit Insights with Addy
By analyzing Reddit data using Addy, an AI-powered research and writing tool that can quickly summarize Reddit data, we were able to gauge the general reaction to his death.
The Reddit conversations on Feb 6th in the US time zone (Feb 7th in the China time zone) show clusters of topics and their associated sentiments as shown below.
The top topic is about the doctor's relatively young age at the time of his death. This led to discussions about:
- Is the virus deadly to young as well as old people?
- Did Dr. Li have an underlying disease?
- Did the Chinese government kill him?
“The death rate is 2% (Also commonly cited by authorities and mainstream outlets)
80% of deaths are over age 60
75% had underlying diseases” [2*]
“90% of people who died from coronavirus so far are the elderly, and 75% have other underlying illnesses that weakened their immune system. This man was a healthy 34-year-old, and died within 1-2 days of showing symptoms? Sounds fishy.” [4*]
“Hope this hero gets some rest now. Anyone else concerned about the fact that a healthy 34 year old doctor died from this virus? I was under the assumption that the fatalities came from those with pre-existing conditions or the elderly…” [3*]
On February 7th, we analyzed the new conversations on Reddit around the same topic (34 year old doctor dying of coronavirus). The blue circle has the top words from February 7th and the yellow from February 6th.
A day after Dr. Li's death you can see that the conversation shifts a bit from conspiracies about the Chinese government’s involvement (“Chinese government”, “kill”) to the continued speculation about why such a young doctor had died and what it means for other victims of the virus. This continues to be a growing theme of discussions on Reddit.
Without a doubt, Reddit boards are remembering Dr. Li as a hero.
“A hero for the Chinese people, if not for the CCP.
A hero to the world.” [7*]
“I believe this man ultimately saved lives. And is still saving future lives by being proof that there have been lies told to the people. With that knowledge, people can better protect themselves and not blindly believe everything being told to them by government.” [9*]
“I am crying like crazy right now. All my friends are extremely upset.” [10*]
“Li’s fate has echoes of Carlo Urbani, an Italian doctor who in 2003 played a crucial role in identifying Sars and raising the international alarm, but was eventually killed by it.” [5*]
Outpouring of Grief & Outrage
“Chinese social media users—referred to as “netizens”—took to Weibo and WeChat to express their grief and outrage over Li’s death, in what multiple reports say is highly unusual for the usually muzzled Communist Party-ruled society.
“Two hashtags (#WeWantFreedomOfSpeech and #WuhanGovernmentOwesDr.LiWenliangAnApology) circulated on Weibo in the early hours of Friday morning, before China’s censors began deleting those posts.”
“#WeWantFreedomOfSpeech had at least 2 million views and 5,500 posts before the censor crackdown, the New York Times reported, even though freedom of speech is guaranteed in China’s constitution.”
“According to the BBC, netizens are now posting the hashtag #CanYouManageDoYouUnderstand, which does not name Li, but does reference the reprimand letter he signed for Wuhan police and indicates still-sizable anger towards the government.” [11*]
“In response to the doctor's death, China's anti-corruption agency, the National Supervisory Commission, announced on Friday that it is sending a team to Hubei to conduct a "comprehensive investigation.” [1*]
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