China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus

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China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus
In this Feb 3, 2020, photo released by Beijing Thanksgiving Public Welfare Foundation, Dr. Li Wenliang is seen at The Central Hospital of Wuhan in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. China has taken the highly unusual move of exonerating the doctor who was reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease. (Beijing Thanksgiving Public Welfare Foundation via AP)
In this Feb 3, 2020, photo released by Beijing Thanksgiving Public Welfare Foundation, Dr. Li Wenliang is seen at The Central Hospital of Wuhan in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. China has taken the highly unusual move of exonerating the doctor who was reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease. (Beijing Thanksgiving Public Welfare Foundation via AP)

(AP) — China has exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease, a startling admission of error by the ruling Communist Party that generally bodes no challenges to its authority.

The party’s top disciplinary body said the police force in Wuhan had revoked its admonishment of Dr Li Wenliang that had included a threat of arrest.

It also said a “solemn apology” had been issued to Li’s family and that two police officers, identified only by their surnames, had been issued “disciplinary punishments” for the original handling of the matter.

In death, Li became the face of simmering anger at the ruling Communist Party’s controls over information and complaints that officials lie about or hide disease outbreaks, industrial accidents, natural disasters, and financial frauds, while punishing whistleblowers and independent journalists.

After seeing thousands of new cases daily at the peak of the city’s outbreak a month ago, Wuhan on Friday had its second consecutive day with no new confirmed or suspected cases.

The National Health Commission said all of the 39 new cases recorded Friday in China were brought from overseas, showing that rigid travel restrictions and social distancing requirements appear to have had their desired effect.

China has loosened some travel restrictions in Hubei, the province surrounding Wuhan, although its provincial border remains closed and Wuhan itself remains under lockdown.

Officials say they will only lift the quarantine after Wuhan goes 14 consecutive days with no new cases.

Police in December had reprimanded eight doctors including Li for warning friends on social media about the emerging threat.

China’s supreme court later criticised the police, but the ruling party continued to tighten its grip on information about the outbreak.

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