But the censors appear to have underestimated the anger, determination and inventiveness of Chinese internet users, who have used myriad ways to share the words of the doctor, Ai Fen.
Users have snubbed and ridiculed the censors and reprinted the interview on Chinese social media again and again, using creative ways to both share the article and also highlight their anger with efforts to silence Ms. Ai. They have shared her story by using pictures of the interview written in elaborate traditional Chinese calligraphy, emojis, morse code, and even “Martian language,” a surreal version of writing Chinese characters that mixes symbols, Japanese and traditional Chinese characters.
In the interview published by Profile magazine, Ms. Ai, who works at Wuhan Central Hospital, which was one of the first hospitals to receive patients infected by the coronavirus, recounted how in December she tried to warn other doctors and former medical school classmates about the mysterious outbreak.
“Had I known what I know today, I wouldn’t have cared about being criticized, I would have told about it everywhere.” said Ms. Ai, head of the emergency room at Wuhan Central Hospital, said in the interview with Profile magazine.
Ms. Ai said she was the one who first sent around to former classmates a picture of a virus test report that indicated that a patient might have the “SARS coronavirus.” That conclusion turned out to be wrong, but scientists later identified the culprit as a coronavirus similar to the SARS virus that devastated China in 2003. Dr. Ai’s picture of the report, underlining “SARS” in red, spread among doctors in Wuhan.
“If all these doctors were alerted in time, this day wouldn’t have come,” Ms. Ai said.
Her account, as well as her indignation of being silenced ignited widespread discussion and reposts of the article as Chinese internet users raced to beat the censors.
“The interview record can be deleted, but the memory in the doctors brain across China can’t be deleted, the anger in the chest of all the doctors across the country can’t be deleted,” one internet user wrote. Another wrote: “Someone distributed the whistle, someone blew the whistle, now someone needs to spread the whistle.”