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Gardner Resolution Honoring Dr. Li Wenliang Passes Senate

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Senate passed a resolution honoring Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who first identified the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in China late last year and sought to warn the government about the potentially devastating impact of the disease. Dr. Li succumbed to the coronavirus on February 7, 2020. The resolution also calls for transparency and cooperation from the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China.

The resolution is sponsored by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and John Barrasso (R-WY).

“Dr. Li Wenliang tried to warn the world about the novel coronavirus, but the Chinese Communist Party stood in the way. Now the COVID-19 outbreak has taken Dr. Li’s life and was declared a global health emergency. We must ensure that this communicable and deadly virus is contained, and that means that the Chinese Communist Party must not be allowed to hide details of the coronavirus from its people and the world,” said Senator Gardner

“Dr. Li tried to warn his country and the world about the deadly coronavirus, but he was silenced by the Chinese Communist Party. Today, the U.S. Senate celebrated his heroic actions and marked forever his contribution to the fight against the virus which took his life. We should honor his legacy by pushing the CCP to be fully transparent about this disease and their efforts to stop it,” said Senator Cotton.

“There is still time for authorities the world over to learn from Dr. Li’s plea for greater openness and transparency when facing outbreaks of infectious disease. Reports that citizen journalists are still being silenced demonstrate that the Chinese government has not heeded his advice. That does not diminish in any way the work of Chinese doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and all those who continue to provide care during this critical time. We should reject efforts by any government that places political expediency over an open and scientific approach to tackling this global health crisis,”said Senator Markey.

“As the U.S. prepares for the COVID-19 outbreak, we take a moment to remember and recognize Dr. Li Wenliang, the first doctor to warn China and the world about the severity of this virus. Though his words of wisdom were quickly censured by the Chinese government, we stand together today to honor his legacy of courage and commitment to a cause he deeply believed in and that ultimately he paid with his own life,” said Senator Menendez.

The full resolution is available here.

Commemorating the life of Dr. Li Wenliang and calling for transparency and cooperation from the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China. 

Whereas Dr. Li Wenliang was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist working in Wuhan, China;

Whereas research indicates that the first patient infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019–nCoV) exhibited symptoms on December 1, 2019;

Whereas, in December 2019, Dr. Li notified his associates in the medical community in China about the outbreak of 2019–nCoV;

Whereas, after raising concerns about the spread of 2019–nCoV, Dr. Li was summoned by Chinese officials and forced to sign a statement retracting his warnings about the virus and confessing that he had spread illegal rumors;

Whereas Chinese government authorities played down dangers to the public for weeks as 2019–nCoV continued to spread, with more than 42,000 confirmed cases in China alone and at least 1,000 deaths reported as of February 11, 2020;

Whereas Dr. Li continued to work as an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital despite his knowledge of the outbreak, and appears to have been infected himself with 2019–nCoV after coming in contact with a patient he was treating for glaucoma;

Whereas, on the morning of February 7, 2020, in the hospital where he worked, Dr. Li Wenliang died after contracting 2019–nCoV;

Whereas, before he passed away, Dr. Li stated, “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”;

Whereas the people of China expressed their grief and anger on social media after the death of Dr. Li, with the phrase “I want freedom of speech” emerging as a top trending topic on the Weibo platform;

Whereas the Government of the People’s Republic of China continues to limit free expression, and stepped up censorship after online criticism and investigative reports by Chinese journalists suggesting that officials underestimated and underplayed the threat of 2019–nCoV;

Whereas Freedom House has listed China as the “worst abuser of internet freedom” in the world for the fourth year in a row, and in the aftermath of the outbreak of 2019–nCoV, there are numerous and well-documented instances of the “Great Firewall” of China suppressing the free flow of critical and medically important information about the pandemic;

Whereas the Government of the People’s Republic of China has endangered the people of Taiwan and people around the world by using its influence to limit Taiwan’s access to the benefits of membership in the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, particularly during the current outbreak; and

Whereas the World Health Organization has declared 2019–nCoV a Public Health Emergency of International Concern: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) honors the life and contributions of Dr. Li Wenliang, and extends heartfelt sympathy to his family and to the families of all who have passed during this outbreak;

(2) expresses its support for the people of China as they face this unprecedented public health challenge;

(3) expresses gratitude to Dr. Li and all Chinese medical personnel and citizens for their efforts to spread awareness of 2019–nCoV and treat individuals who have contracted the disease;

(4) calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China—

(A) to be open and transparent in investigating and responding to 2019–nCoV;

(B) to ensure that Chinese citizens and the international community have free and unfettered access, without censorship or social media controls, to information about 2019–nCoV;

(C) to cooperate fully with the United States Government, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in providing medical access, sharing information, and developing treatment to combat 2019–nCoV;

(D) to cooperate fully with other governments, especially those in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other regions whose health systems already face high burdens and are operating from a lower base of capability, as well as international health organizations in combating 2019–nCoV; and

(E) to cease efforts to exclude Taiwan from international organizations, including the World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization;

(5) affirms the vital importance of Dr. Li’s belief that “[t]here should be more openness and transparency” in China;

(6) affirms that freedom of expression is a social good that enables experts to sound public health warnings and helps citizens ensure that their government addresses weaknesses in crisis response; and

(7) strongly supports the people of China in their demand for freedom of speech.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

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