“Tonight is a monumental moment for our collective conscience,” he wrote in a later post.
Though there are some outspoken dissidents in China, their numbers have dwindled as the Communist Party under the leader Xi Jinping has cracked down repeatedly on lawyers, journalists and businesspeople over the past seven years.
In this highly censored society, it’s rare for ordinary people to make demands and openly express anger toward the government. It’s even more rare for officials and heads of big corporations to show emotions that can be interpreted as discontent with the state.
After speculation of Mr. Li’s death began swirling online Thursday evening, the Communist Party’s propaganda machine went into full gear, trying to control the message. But it didn’t seem as effective as it had in the past.
The outpouring of messages online from sad, infuriated and grieving people was too much for the censors. The government even seemed to recognize the enormity of the country’s emotion, dispatching a team to investigate what it called “issues related to Dr. Li Wenliang that were reported by the public,” though without specifics.