Beijing’s city government will protect “non-malicious” medical whistleblowers under a new law, passed months after a Chinese doctor was punished for sounding the alarm at the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

China’s leaders suffered a rare wave of public outrage after ophthalmologist Li Wenliang died of the disease in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus first emerged late last year.

He had attempted to warn authorities about the new infection but was instead reprimanded for “spreading rumours”.

Other medical whistleblowers in Wuhan later told Chinese media they were punished by government officials for discussing the outbreak without permission from superiors.

The new Beijing law, which came into effect from Friday, states that anyone whose tip-offs are later verified would be rewarded, and suffer no penalties.

But the regulations do not cover anyone “fabricating or deliberately disseminating false information” about developing public health emergencies, according to a government notice on Saturday.

The new legislation is similar to a public health emergency law passed by Shenzhen municipal government in August, which also vows to protect “non-malicious” whistleblowers from legal consequences — the first of its kind in China.

Since the initial outbreak in January, Chinese authorities have waged a crackdown on Covid-19 rumour-mongering, investigating and detaining hundreds across the country.

– AFP

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