Aminda Smith, Of Martyrs and Maladies: Some Thoughts on the Coronavirus

When I learned that the 34-year-old ophthalmologist and whistleblower Li Wenliang had died, I felt a surge of grief and then a deep sense of dread. These emotions surprised me. I did not know Dr. Li, though I had followed his story with great interest, as he faced official censure for warning his colleagues, and then the public, about a virulent strain of pneumonia, which seemed poised to have a significant mortality rate. Even after CCP authorities admitted that a novel Coronavirus was indeed sickening and killing people, there were still attempts to silence Li, as he and seven others were arrested and ordered to stop “spreading rumors.”  Li became a hero to a terrified, quarantined populace; someone who dared to stand up to the state and tell the truth. When the virus he’d tried to stop killed him, it was more than tragic because it was chillingly consistent with the logics of both the state and its resisters. The battle against the state-abetted Coronavirus had a martyr.  

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