Chinese Ambassador Is Found Dead at Home in Israel

JERUSALEM – China's ambassador to Israel, who took office in February, was found dead at his home on Sunday morning, in a coastal suburb north of Tel Aviv, officials said.

The ambassador, Du Wei, was found in his bed in Herzliya by an embassy official, officials said.

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The cause of Du's death, 57, was not immediately clarified. Israeli police found no reason to suspect that the ambassador's death was the result of unnatural causes, the Foreign Ministry said.

Investigators – including Chen Kugel, head of Israel's National Center for Forensic Medicine – declined to comment on leaving the ambassador's residence.

Du's wife and son were not in Israel at the time, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry. The Chinese Embassy could not be reached immediately for comment.

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Du arrived in Israel on February 15 and was quarantined for two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic before meeting with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials on March 3.

He sent his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on March 23, instead of formally presenting them due to restrictions at face-to-face meetings, officials said.

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Du has worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China for more than 30 years, according to a biography on the website of the Chinese Embassy. Its first ambassador was in Ukraine, from 2016 to 2019.

His visit to Israel put Du in the midst of an increasingly tense dynamic that creates friction between Israel and the United States. China has invested heavily in Israel in recent years, participating in hundreds of technological startups and taking control of dairy processing company Tnuva.

But Israel antagonized Washington allowing Chinese companies to make large investments in infrastructure in recent years, including in sensitive locations. A majority-owned Chinese government company signed a 25-year lease to operate Israel's commercial port in Haifa, a frequent port of call for the United States Navy, starting in 2021.

And near the Palmachim air force base in Israel, a Hong Kong company, Hutchison Water International, is a finalist in the construction of a desalination plant that Israel says is the largest in the world.

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Trump administration officials have repeatedly warned Israeli officials that information sharing between the two close allies could be undermined or compromised by these investments from China.

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In April, Mr. Du gave a written interview to the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon in which he insisted that China was a "responsible, rule-abiding and trustworthy country".

"China's investment has no geopolitical agenda, no political line and poses no threat to Israel's national security," he wrote.

Du also compared the demonization of China in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic with historical abuse of Jews.

"He's a scapegoat," he told the newspaper. “In history, it happened many times when the causes of illness were unjustly attributed to a specific group of people, which is negligible and must be condemned. The disease is the enemy of all humanity, and the world must fight together. "

The Chinese Embassy spokesman responded with an Op-Ed article in The Jerusalem Post, in which he called Pompeo's remarks "absurd" and repeated the comparison with anti-Semitism.

History "shows that the pandemic is accompanied by conspiracies and the dark mentality of looking for scapegoats", the spokesman Wang Yongjun wrote. "Jewish friends know it well."

David M. Halbfinger reported in Jerusalem, and Adam Rasgon, from Herzliya, Israel.

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