BEIJING, MAY 17 – Chinese Ambassador to Israel Du Wei was found dead Sunday in his apartment in a Tel Aviv suburb. Police have launched an investigation into his death.
Du, 58, was found dead in his bed and appears to have died in his sleep. He left behind a wife and a son. He was appointed as China’s envoy to Israel in February.
Initial reports say that Du was found dead in his bed by staff at his residence, and that no signs of violence were found on his body. The Magen David Adom first aid service said that the cause of death appears to be a cardiac incident.
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Yuval Rotem said that he spoke with China’s deputy ambassador Dai Yuming to express his condolences, and told him that the ministry will help the Chinese Embassy with anything they may need along the way.
Embassies from all over the world contacted Israel’s Foreign Ministry, requesting further details regarding the circumstances that led to Du’s death.
On Friday, the Chinese Embassy in Israel responded to criticism voiced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Israel last week, calling his remarks that China had concealed information about the outbreak of the coronavirus from the world “absurd.”
The embassy statement noted that “scientists still haven’t identified the origin of COVID-19,” and claimed that China never concealed the outbreak of the disease in the country. It also added that the United States is currently the epicenter of the pandemic.
The embassy also referred to Pompeo’s warning to Israel regarding Chinese investments in the country. During his visit on Wednesday, Pomeo said that such investments could pose a security risk, particularly in the area of infrastructure.
In an interview to the Makor Rishon newspaper in April, Du said that after accepting the position of ambassador, he flew to Israel in mid-Februry and entered a 14-day quarantine due to the outbreak in China. At the end of March, he received his diplomatic credentials. Because of the pandemic, he did not meet with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, as is customary.
Speaking with Makor Rishon, Du expressed hope to strengthen the ties between Israel and China, addressing the accusations leveled at his country as being the one responsible for the outbreak of the virus.
“I assumed my post in an extraordinary time when China was fighting against the COVID-19. Immediately after my arrival on February 15, I went into the 14-day home quarantine. During which, I had not taken a single step out of my residence nor had any direct contact with my Embassy colleagues. I just want to send a message to all Israeli friends that China is a responsible, rule-abiding and trustworthy country,” Du said.
“There are different voices regarding China’s fight. In the beginning, some voices were condescending and schadenfreude. Later, when the disease broke out around the world, the voices became ‘China should apologize.’ It is scapegoating. In history, it has happened many times when the causes of diseases were wrongfully blamed on a specific group of people, which is despicable and should be condemned. The disease is the enemy of all mankind, and the world must fight it together,” Du told Makor Rishon.
Du also addressed the matter of Chinese investments in Israeli infrastructure, expressing hope for further cooperation.
In February, before the coronavirus had spread to Israel, the deputy chief of the Chinese Embassy in Israel, Dai Yuming, said that “China opened its doors to the Jewish people during dark times and we didn’t close it. I hope that Israel won’t close the door to the Chinese.”
The statement came after Israel’s Foreign Ministry recommended against travel to China and urged all residents of Israel in China to leave after suspending all direct flights to the country.