The man who managed to prevent a cover-up of the SARS epidemic in China has died. Chinese media in Hong Kong reported that former military surgeon Jiang Yanyong died of pneumonia in Beijing this weekend. He was 91 years old.
It is said that Jiang saved many lives 20 years ago through his actions in the early stages of the SARS outbreak.
The doctor was working in a hospital in Beijing at the time. In April 2003 the Minister of Health appeared in the media to inform the public that there had been “only a few cases” of the new, fatal respiratory infection. But Jiang said he had heard of more than 100 SARS cases at that point in military hospitals alone.
He then sent a message to Chinese state media denouncing the government’s lies. They ignored his verses. The letter was eventually leaked to the Western media, who paid a lot of attention to it. As a result, the World Health Organization was called in and the Chinese government was forced to admit the misinformation.
Not only detecting SARS
Immediately after the disclosure, the government took drastic measures, slowing down the spread of the virus. Because of the letter and the death of a Finnish UN employee, the Minister of Health and the mayor of Beijing had to step down.
“I felt I had to reveal what was going on, not only to save China, but also to save the world,” Jiang said. For his acting, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award from the Philippines in 2004, which is a kind of Asian Nobel Prize.
In the same year he again went to war against the Chinese government. He called on the Communist Party to admit that the bloody suppression of the student demonstration in Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a mistake, and that thousands of civilians might have been killed. This is not openly discussed in China.
Jiang and his wife have been placed under house arrest several times and banned from traveling abroad. However, he continued to express his point of view. In 2019, he sent another letter to President Xi calling the events of June 4, 1989 a crime. Because he is a politically sensitive person, the news of Jiang’s death was not reported in Chinese state media.
SARS and Corona virus
According to WHO figures, a total of 8,908 SARS cases have been recorded worldwide since the virus emerged in the southern province of Guangdong. In the end, 774 people died. The majority of infections were in China.
Jiang’s story is reminiscent of that of Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist from Wuhan who in December 2019 warned of a “SARS-like virus”: COVID-19.
After he himself fell ill, he took to social media to ask why the authorities were claiming that the medical staff had not been infected. He was questioned by the police on charges of “spreading rumours”. In February 2020, he died from the effects of the coronavirus.
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