There was actually another hero in the coronavirus saga. She is/was Dr Ai Fen 艾芬 from Wuhan Central Hospital. She was the one who provided evidence for the emergence of a novel coronavirus to Dr Li Wenliang et al who later shared this information on social media.
Unlike Dr Li, Dr Ai did not break the news on social media as she had been warned by the authorities. If Dr Li were the whistle-blower, Dr Ai could be called the one who gave him the whistle.
On 10 March 2020, Dr Ai gave an interview to 《人物》magazine, revealing that she was actually the first doctor to know about the virus (probably thinking that it was safe to do so since the late Dr Li’s “crime” had already been forgiven). That article was removed the next day and Dr Ai disappeared.
As Dr Li was being honoured, both she and the folks running the magazine must have thought that it was all right for her to break her silence.
Unfortunately, the CCP had other plans. They wanted to shift the blame on the US and talking about the initial outbreak in Wuhan would have worked against their cause.