'Sacrificed': anger in China over death of Wuhan doctor from coronavirus

By Lily Kuo

The death of a doctor at Wuhan’s “whistleblower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting frontline health workers in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hu Weifeng, 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central hospital where the whistleblower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus.

Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen, said authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming stability” when she tried to warn others of the virus. Li Wenliang also tried to warn friends and colleagues in December, and was punished – only to die of the virus in February, causing an unprecedented wave of public anger at authorities.

A hashtag on Hu’s death had more than 400 million views on Wednesday with more than 46,000 comments. Many of them asked why the heads of the hospital have not been punished – specifically Cai Li, head of the Communist party committee of the hospital.

“From Li Wenliang to Hu Weifeng, the medical staff of Wuhan Central hospital lost the most during the outbreak. They were killed by the leaders of the hospital,” one internet user on Weibo wrote.

“Wuhan officials have all been changed. What about the leadership of the central hospital?” one internet user asked, referring to the number of city and provincial-level officials who have been fired over their handling of the outbreak. “Cai Li is not even put under investigation. Are these doctors and nurses going to die in vain?” another said.

While most internet users posted candle emojis and thanked Hu for his sacrifice, others blamed the system that Cai is part of for suppressing voices like Li and Ai who could have warned medical staff and residents of Wuhan.

“The people were unable to fight against the authoritarian system and one after another they are sacrificed,” one said. “Dealing with Cai Li is a challenge to the foundation of the system. Once it happens there will be problems later.”

Hu reportedly suffered a brain haemorrhage in April and was in a coma before he died. According to Chinese media, when Hu was awake he told those around him: “I feel like a small boat in the middle of the ocean. At any moment I could be submerged.”

Additional reporting by Lillian Yang