Jiang Yanyong, the Chinese military doctor who exposed the full extent of 2003 SARS outbreak and was later placed under house arrest for his outspokenness had died, according to media reports.
He was 91. Reports said he died of pneumonia on March 11 in Beijing. Reports from Beijing said that the news of Jiang’s death and even his name was censored within China. This only showed that he was a politically sensitive figure even late in life.
THE WHISTLE BLOWER
While the SARS virus began spreading in Mainland China in late 2002 and early 2003 and authorities suppressing the facts, Jiang emailed an 800-word letter to Chinese Central Television -4 (CCTV4) and Phoenix TV (Hong Kong) reporting that fact. Although neither of the two replied or published his letter, the information was leaked to the other news organizations, who published the news. The revelation forced the resignation of the Mayor of Beijing and the Minister of Public Health.
Jiang had been chief surgeon at the People’s Liberation Army’s main 301 hospital in Beijing when the army fought its way through the city to end weeks of student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Tiananmen Square.
In February 2004, Jiang wrote an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao, several other members of the Chinese government. The letter asked for a re-examination of the responsibility borne by the Chinese government for the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
On 2 June 2004, two days before the 15th anniversary of the massacre, Jiang Yanyong’s family in California reported that he and his wife were missing from their house in Beijing after being arrested and placed under military custody. He was released on 19 July 2004.
In March 2019, he wrote to Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping calling the crackdown on student protests in Tiananmen Square a crime. Jiang’s friends then reported that they lost contact with him and believed he was under house arrest. In February 2020, it was reported that he “has been placed under de facto house arrest since last year”.
In 2004, Jiang was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service from the Philippines, considered by some an Asian version of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the citation, he was praised for having broken “China’s habit of silence and forced the truth of SARS into the open.”
He also won the Heinz R Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award given by the New York Academy of Sciences. Jiang was prevented from leaving the country and his daughter collected the award on his behalf.
Jiang joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1954 and was assigned to the 301 Hospital (PLA General Hospital) in Beijing. In 1987, Jiang was named the hospital’s chief surgeon. He held the military rank of Major General.