“IF YOU KEEP being stubborn, fail to repent and continue illegal activities, you will be brought to justice.” So read the warning that police in Wuhan issued to Li Wenliang early in January. Mr Li, an ophthalmologist at a hospital in the city, had been summoned by officers after sharing information through WeChat, a social-media platform, about a new coronavirus that few people then knew about.

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On the evening of February 6th Mr Li was killed by the pathogen, having been infected by a patient a few days after the police told him to shut up. His death has prompted one of the biggest outpourings of online criticism of the government in years.

Officials struggling to contain the virus are also now battling to assuage public anger.

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