Chinese SARS whistleblower Jiang Yanyong dies at 91


BEIJING — Jiang Yanyong, a Chinese army physician who revealed the complete extent of the 2003 SARS outbreak and was later positioned below home arrest for his political outspokenness, has died, a long-time acquaintance and a Hong Kong newspaper stated Tuesday.

Jiang was 91 and died of pneumonia Saturday in Beijing, in accordance with human rights activist Hu Jia and the South China Morning Post.

News of Jiang’s demise and even his identify have been censored inside China, underscoring how he remained a politically delicate determine even late in life.

Jiang had been chief surgeon on the People’s Liberation Army’s important 301 hospital in Beijing when the military fought its approach by way of the town to finish weeks of student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square, inflicting the deaths of lots of — presumably 1000’s — of civilians.

In April 2003, because the ruling Communist Party was suppressing information concerning the outbreak of the extremely contagious Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Jiang wrote an 800-word letter stating there have been many extra SARS instances than have been being formally reported by the nation’s well being minister.

Jiang emailed the letter to state broadcaster CCTV and Hong Kong’s Beijing-friendly Phoenix Channel, each of which ignored it. The letter was then leaked to Western media retailers that revealed it in its entirety, together with stories on the true extent of the outbreak and official Chinese efforts to cover it.

The letter, together with the demise of a Finnish United Nations worker and statements by famend doctor Zhong Nanshan, pressured the lifting of presidency suppression, resulting in the resignations of each the well being minister and Beijing’s mayor. Strict containment measures have been imposed just about in a single day, serving to to restrain the unfold of the virus that had already begun showing abroad.

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In all, greater than 8,000 individuals from 29 international locations and territories have been contaminated with SARS, leading to a minimum of 774 deaths.

“Jiang had the conscience of a doctor to people the patients first. He saved so many lives with that letter, without thought for the consequences,” Hu instructed The Associated Press.

Chinese authorities later sought to dam media entry to Jiang, who retired with the rank of main normal. He turned down an interview with The Associated Press, saying he had been unable to acquire the required permission from the Ministry of Defense.

From 2004, Jiang and his spouse have been periodically positioned below home arrest for interesting to Communist leaders for a re-evaluation of the 1989 protests that continues to be a taboo subject. That recalled Jiang’s earlier experiences when he was persecuted as a rightist below Mao Zedong through the Nineteen Fifties, ’60s and ’70s.

In 2004, Jiang was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service from the Philippines, thought-about by some an Asian model of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the quotation, he was praised for having damaged “China’s habit of silence and forced the truth of SARS into the open.”

Jiang was prevented from leaving the nation and the award was collected by his daughter on his behalf.

Three years later, he gained the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award given by the New York Academy of Sciences, however was once more blocked from touring.

Echoes of Jiang’s expertise have been heard in China’s strategy to the preliminary outbreak of COVID-19, first detected within the central Chinese metropolis of Wuhan in late 2019.

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A Wuhan eye physician, Li Wenliang, was detained and threatened by police for allegedly spreading rumors on social media following an try to alert others a couple of “SARS-like” virus. Li’s demise on Feb. 7, 2020, sparked widespread outrage in opposition to the Chinese censorship system. Users posted criticism for hours earlier than censors moved to delete posts.

Sympathy and the outpouring of anger of the therapy of Li and different whistleblowers prompted the federal government to vary course and declare him and 13 others martyrs.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 7 million individuals worldwide, together with an estimated 1.5 million in China, whose authorities has been accused of massively undercounting the true variety of deaths.

Jiang is survived by his spouse, Hua Zhongwei, a son and a daughter, in accordance with the South China Morning Post.

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