A former military surgeon, Jiang Yanyong, who blew the whistle on Chinese authorities’ cover-up of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, has died at the age of 91.

Jiang died of pneumonia on Saturday in Beijing, the China’s capital, according to a report by family, friends and Chinese-language media in Hong Kong reported.

He would be remembered for saving lives following a letter he wrote in the early stage of the SARS crisis which exposed officials were playing down the threat, BBC reported.

I was tortured for refusing to pay SARS officers N5m, petitioner alleges at NHRC panel
But, the medical practitioner endured house arrest at one point for his unwavering outspokenness.

SARS infected more than 8,000 people globally in 2003. And, 774 died, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.

Jiang had been working in a Beijing hospital in April 2003, when he was alarmed to hear the Chinese health minister telling the public there were only a few cases of a new deadly respiratory disease.

The senior doctor said he knew more than 100 people had the virus in military hospital wards alone.

He sent a letter exposing the lies in the official narrative to Chinese state broadcasters, who ignored it. But the letter was then leaked to foreign media which published his account in full.

His revelations compelled the Chinese government to admit it had offered false information, and propelled the WHO into action.

Strict containment measures were imposed overnight, which helped slow the spread of the virus.

His actions also led to the sacking of China’s health minister and Beijing’s mayor at the time.

“I felt I had to reveal what was happening, not just to save China, but to save the world,” he said about his actions.