China Says Preliminary Finding Points To Natural Causes In Ambassador's Death, Sends Investigators To Israel

Only a couple months in post, China's ambassador to Israel, 57-year old Du Wei was found dead in his home near Tel Aviv on Sunday, which immediately triggered global headlines covering the relatively rare event of a top diplomat dying while on the job, and also speculation over possible foul play.

Scrutiny was especially intense, as The Jerusalem Post underscored Sunday afternoon, given Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Israel last week where he denounced Chinese investments in Israel, including the strategic Haifa Port, and accused Beijing of withholding information about the coronavirus outbreak.

But China's Foreign Ministry has finally issued a preliminary statement Monday which points to natural causes for the death.

Du Wei took up his post in Israel on Feb. 15. Image: Reuters.

“The preliminary verdict is that Ambassador Du Wei died unexpectedly of health reasons. The details await further confirmation,” according to the statement out of Beijing. 

It further said China is sending a special investigator to look further into the envoy’s death, following the initial Israeli police investigation, which is considered normal procedure. 

According to The Times of Israel, local police cited that the ambassador suffered an apparent heart attack overnight Saturday

Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday morning that Du Wei, 57, had been found dead at his official residence in the coastal town of Herzliya. The Foreign Ministry said police were on the scene.

According to the Ynet news site, aides tried to wake Du and found him in his bed, not breathing. The initial assessment was that he had suffered cardiac arrest during the night.

Channel 12 news reported there were no external signs of violence on Du’s body.

Israeli newspapers were quick to underscore that the immediate rapid spread of the news across global press almost immediately after the discovery of the death was accompanied by widespread rumors and speculation.

AFP/Times of Israel: Israeli police and forensic experts gather in front of the residence of Israel’s Chinese ambassador, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, after he was found dead, on May 17, 2020.

"The level of conspiracies and anti-China comments after the death of the ambassador reached a crescendo on Sunday afternoon," Jerusalem Post wrote.

The Chinese Embassy in Israel in response to Pompeo's anti-China rhetoric last Wednesday, published its own response and condemnation to the attacks on its official website, no doubt on direct orders of Ambassador Wei.

He had only assumed his post in February 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, due to which he entered a two week mandatory self-quarantine upon his arrival. He'd previously been China’s envoy to Ukraine and is survived by his wife and son, who were not yet in the country.