In front of hundreds of party officials, cadres and health workers, Xi carefully draped a heavy gold medal over the head of the senior epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan. He awarded medals to a traditional Chinese medicine expert, the head of a Wuhan hospital at the forefront of the outbreak, and a military biomedical expert. More than 40 medical workers, local officials and police who died during the outbreak were also commended.
But missing from the list of national heroes was one individual that comes to mind for many Chinese citizens: the doctor Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at a hospital in Wuhan who was “disciplined” by local authorities for trying to warn colleagues of the virus. His death aged 34 after contracting the virus in January turned into a rallying call for free speech and demands for government accountability.