The US is aggressively pushing to find ways to punish China for its culpability as the Trump administration is blaming China for the thousands of deaths due to the Wuhan coronavirus in the USA. In a move, that is likely to greatly irk China, US lawmakers are now pushing to rename the street opposite the Chinese embassy in Washington in the honour of Dr Wenliang, a Chinese whistleblower doctor who sought to alarm the word about the impending pandemic who was silenced by the Chinese Communist Party and unfortunately, later succumbed to the virus in February.
In a move that will likely to escalate the already growing tensions between the US and China, US lawmakers are now proposing to rename the street opposite to the Chinese Embassy in Washington to “Li Wenliang Plaza” from the current name of International Place.
Influential Republican Senator Marco Rubio has also backed the move and has been introduced simultaneously in both the Chambers of Commerce. “We’ll ensure the name Li Wenliang is never forgotten – by placing it permanently outside the embassy of the nation responsible for the deaths Dr Li tried to prevent,” said Republican Senator Tom Cotton.
This move comes after a senior staff from the Trump administration lauded the Chinese whistleblowers in a rare address in Chinese. “To my mind, the heirs of May Fourth are civic-minded citizens who commit small acts of bravery, and sometimes big acts of bravery. Dr. Li Wenliang was such a person. He (Dr Wenliang) was an ophthalmologist and a young father who committed a small act of bravery and then a big act of bravery,” said deputy National Security Adviser, Matthew Pottinger.
Chinese doctor Wenliang was one of the first whistleblowers to raise the alarm over Coronavirus but the Communist party true to its characteristics, muzzled his concerns. When Wenliang on December 30, sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection, four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter, he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”. He was one of eight people who police said were being investigated for “spreading rumours”.
Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li. In his Weibo post he described how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in the hospital. He was diagnosed with the Coronavirus on 30 January and unfortunately, later succumbed to it.
Even in his death, Wenliang was disrespected by the Chinese government as to when he was initially declared dead at 21:30 local time, the news triggered a huge wave of popular reaction on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. The top two trending hashtags on the website were “Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang and apology” and “We want freedom of speech” which were of course quickly censored by the government. Wenliang’s death saw the Global Times and People’s Daily contradict each other. The People’s Daily sent out a tweet saying Dr Li’s death had sparked “national grief”.
However, Global Times then said he had been given a treatment known as ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) which keeps a person’s heart pumping and keeps their blood oxygenated without it going through their lungs. Global Times said he was in a critical condition. Journalists and doctors at the scene, who do not want their names used, told the BBC and other media that government officials had intervened. Official media outlets had been told to change their reports to say the doctor was still being treated, such was the love for Dr Wenliang that the CCP was forced to change their narrative.
While under the tenure of Barack Obama, a previous attempt to rename the street after Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned after he pushed for democratic reforms in China, was dead on arrival as Obama said he would veto any such move to ensure good relations between the USA and China.
However, the Trump administration has shunned any political correctness as in 2018, they named a block outside the Russian Embassy after Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead for the crime of speaking against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hence, there is a real possibility that Trump would entertain such a proposal which will greatly enrage China.