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Du Wei had previously served as ambassador to Ukraine. Photo: Handout

China’s ambassador to Israel found dead in his Tel Aviv home

  • Local police won’t comment on cause of death of 57-year-old Du Wei, but Israeli TV said it appeared to be from natural causes
  • Du had been sent to Israel after serving as ambassador to Ukraine for three years

China’s ambassador to Israel Du Wei was found dead at his home in a Tel Aviv suburb on Sunday, according to media reports.

Israel’s foreign ministry and the police spokesman have confirmed the death of the 57-year-old diplomat, but have not commented on the cause of death.

“As part of the regular procedure, police units are at the scene,” a police spokesman told Reuters.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV, quoting unidentified emergency medical officials, said initial indications were that Du died in his sleep of natural causes.

Du was assigned to the post in February in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, following a three-year spell as the ambassador to Ukraine.

He has been with the Chinese foreign ministry for 31 years and was married with a son, according to the embassy website.

The death has not yet been confirmed by the Chinese embassy.

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His death came three days after Chinese diplomats lashed out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he blamed China for the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a response published in The Jerusalem Post on May 14, the Chinese embassy said the US should take the responsibility for the situation in its own country.

“Currently, the United States is the epicentre of the pandemic ... But, the current situation in the US is not caused by China, rather the inaction of a few American politicians who missed the window of opportunity to bring the virus under control.

“From this perspective, the tragedy in the US is not only a natural disaster but also a result of mismanagement,” the embassy said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warned his hosts against Chinese investments. Photo: DPA

The embassy also criticised Pompeo for warning Israel that investments from China could pose a security risk.

“At the end of 2018, China’s investment in Israel only accounted for 0.4 per cent of China’s investment across the world and 3 per cent of the foreign investment flow into Israel,” the embassy said.

“We trust that our Jewish friends are not only able to defeat the coronavirus but also the ‘political virus,’ and choose the course of action that best serves its interests,” the statement concluded.

China has been trying to step up cooperation with Israel, a key US ally, particularly on the technology front, but has recountered resistance from both the Israeli government and academia.

China’s Israel envoy compares coronavirus travel bans to Holocaust

The latest incident came on Wednesday last week when Israel said it would review a Hong Kong-based company’s involvement in a US$1.5 billion Sorek B desalination plant, which is expected to be the biggest of its kind in the world but which will be built near the military base of Palmachim.

In October Israel set up a committee to review foreign investments into sensitive sectors, partly to address longstanding US concerns about Chinese investment in projects that could have both civilian and military purposes.

Du Wei is the second ambassador to die in an overseas post in the diplomatic history of the People’s Republic.

Xu Huang, the ambassador to Peru, died in March 1981 because of illness, three years after he took the job.

Additional reporting from Reuters

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Beijing’s ambassador to Israel found dead