Humiliating Whistle-Blowers: Li Wenliang, the Response to Covid-19, and the Call for a Decent Society

Jing Bao Nie, Carl Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The ethical experience and lessons of China’s and the world's response to COVID-19 will be debated for many years to come. But one feature of the Chinese authoritarian response that should not be overlooked is its practice of silencing and humiliating the whistle-blowers who told the truth about the epidemic. In this article, we document the humiliation of Dr Li Wenliang (1986–2020), the most prominent whistle-blower in the Chinese COVID-19 epidemic. Engaging with the thought of Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit, who argues that humiliation constitutes an injury to a person’s self-respect, we discuss his contention that a decent society is one that abolishes conditions which constitute a justification for its dependents to consider themselves humiliated. We explore the ways that institutions humiliate whistle-blowers in Western countries as well as in China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-547
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of bioethical inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd.


  • COVID-19
  • China
  • Decent society
  • Public health ethics
  • Whistle-blowing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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