Hundreds of Chinese internet users have paid tribute to “martyr” doctor Li Wenliang, who first blew the whistle on the coronavirus outbreak, in the wake of a dramatic reversal of strict Covid rules by the government.

Li was in a group of doctors in the central city of Wuhan who warned on social media of a new SARS-like disease spreading in December 2019, and was reprimanded by police for spreading “rumours”.

Li Wenliang. Photo: Li Wenliang.

He later died of the coronavirus, triggering an outpouring of grief and anger on a scale and intensity rarely seen in China.

And he remains a potent symbol of frustration with the government’s suppression of independent voices.

Nearly three years after his death, his profile on China’s Twitter-like Weibo received hundreds of comments after officials on Wednesday announced a nationwide loosening of hardline Covid restrictions.

“A hobbit like you is indispensable, ordinary and small but resolute and brave, unintentionally becoming a hero… and a martyr,” said one commenter.

“Those who blow the whistle are always worth remembering,” wrote another. “I look forward to a more transparent society.”

Some users paid tribute to Li’s courage while others shared their frustration with strict Covid rules as well as their anxiety over the government’s sudden shift in policy.

“I don’t know if you would be disappointed” in the government’s reversal, one wrote.

“As a PCR test worker, I’m worn out by chasing after positive cases, too many samples to handle, information to put in the system that does not seem to end, the rising wave of public complaints,” they added.

“Brother it’s over! You were worried about the pandemic while on your deathbed,” another wrote.

“Finally, the spring has come!”

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