The city of Beijing has passed a limited whistleblower law that will protect “non-malicious” medical informants.
The law took effect Friday, according to Agence France-Presse, but will not cover whistleblowers found to be “fabricating or deliberately disseminating false information,” Chinese authorities said Sunday.
Officials also said informants may be rewarded, Reuters reported.
Similar legislation has already been enacted in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.
One of the first Chinese whistleblowers to raise the alarm about the novel coronavirus, Li Wenliang, was detained by Wuhan police in late December. After returning to work and contracting covid-19, Li died Feb. 7, sparking anger over his treatment by the authorities and questions over whether the silencing of Li and other whistleblowers had contributed to the rapid spread of the virus around the world.
From his deathbed, Li emphasized the importance of free speech, sparking criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and its coverups during the pandemic.
In an effort to deflect blame, authorities portrayed Li as a heroic party member.
Despite recent changes to address failures exposed by the pandemic, there are concerns that future whistleblower complaints could still arbitrarily be seen as “malicious” by authorities, given their past treatment of informants.
Chinese authorities have cracked down on independent reporting on the pandemic. A citizen journalist who reported from Wuhan, Chen Qiushi, disappeared in February and only recently reemerged, according to the BBC.