Warning or Rumor? Should we manage speech?

I was walking out from Geisel yesterday and noticed that the chalk writing in simplified Chinese that mourns for Dr. Wenliang Li was still there. As I studied the Bill of Rights before, I am personally glad that whoever wrote it can have his or her freedom of speech practices here as a part of their natural rights. As according to the Amendment I:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

It can be seen that the speech right, is a part of the natural right that people have according to the Constitution. People can express freely, and the government cannot make restrictions on it.

So, back to the story, Wenliang Li was a doctor in Wuhan, China. Before the coronavirus outbreak, he was one of the eight “whistleblowers” that warns his friends and colleagues in a group chat but then spread to the public that there’s a suspicion of some SARS (syndrome caused by a specific coronavirus) cases in a seafood market. However, his warning was judged by the government as rumor spreading and had him sign a paper to stop such actions. Except that, the government paid little attention to the case itself. Then the coronavirus outbreaks in China, especially Wuhan, and Dr. Wenliang Li passed away after infecting the coronavirus during work.

Though it is totally different cases between China and the U.S. and it is wrong to use the Bill of Rights as a fact to comment on this (though lots of people, even native Chinese, are questioning the government about their speech rights). But take out the political stuff and focus on the philosophy and the case itself, Will the freedom of speech give a proper solution to this case? I personally say it could be better if people hold that speech right is a part of their human rights. I don’t want it to be a joke that “-if you can time travel back to China, will you save the country? -no, you will be the ninth person that gets punished for spreading lies.”

2 thoughts on “Warning or Rumor? Should we manage speech?

  1. This was pretty interesting because I didn’t know most of this stuff. I was wondering what happened to the other six whistle blowers. And what was the response that the government made after the corona virus outbreak on making Dr. Li Wenliang signing that paper. Also, I didn’t know that the Chinese government were able to make anyone sign a paper that would restrict their freedom of speech. It is tough for me not to consider the speech right as anything other than a human right. I believe everyone should have the right to speak their mind, and the government should have no control over the words of its citizens.

  2. Tianze, I have a strong resonance with your post here. When Dr. Li first revealed the existence of coronavirus to his family and friends, he said that “please keep a mind on this and also keep this in secret” since he knew what would come to him if he pointed it out to the public. Despite his intention to reduce the exposure of this information to the public, he was warned by police of spreading rumors and disrupting social order. This sounds really ridiculous to me and I could not imagine how hard he felt when he signed “I understand” under the warning from the police. If at least, there is more tolerance for speech, wouldn’t it be much more helpful for preventing the virus from spreading so crazily in the beginning? I am really grieved after hearing the death of Dr. Li and hope there will be more and more people stand out to guard their freedoms of speech.

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