Visitors are invited to lay a virtual chrysanthemum at a wall of martyrs that includes Li Wenliang, the ophthalmologist at a Wuhan hospital whose death from the virus led to nationwide mourning. But missing from his brief biography is a crucial fact: that Dr. Li was reprimanded by the government for warning colleagues about the virus from which he later died.
China has spent much of the past year trying to spin the narrative of the pandemic as an undisputed victory led by the ruling Communist Party. The state-run news media has largely ignored the government’s missteps and portrayed China’s response as proof of the superiority of its authoritarian system, especially compared to that of the United States and other democracies, which are still struggling to contain raging outbreaks.
Those efforts have taken on new urgency as the Jan. 23 anniversary of Wuhan’s lockdown draws closer. In recent weeks, the government has deployed an army of censors to scrub the internet of critical coverage of the Wuhan outbreak. Terms like “first anniversary” and “whistle blower” have been deleted at times from Chinese sites.