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Report: China to send investigative team to Israel to probe ambassador’s death

China will send a special team to investigate the death of its ambassador to Israel on Monday, Du Wei, who’s body was found in his Tel Aviv apartment on Sunday, sources have told Haaretz.

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.

Sources have told Haaretz that the team will depart on Monday. It will conduct an internal investigation, and handle flying arrangements for the body, as well as coordinate embassy activities. A representative from the family will be joining.

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.

Later on Sunday, Chinese government sources told media outlets in the country that Du “apparently died of natural causes but it is necessary to examine all the details.”

In addition, it will not be mandated to quarantine upon its arrival, as current foreign arrival to Israel are instructed.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry 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.

Senior security officials in both countries have sounded alarm bells over Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects, warning they are a security risk and could jeopardize ties with the US.

The embassy in its statement said Pompeo has long claimed there are security risks in cooperation with China, “without producing any concrete evidence.”

It said Israeli-Chinese cooperation was “win-win in nature,” and it claimed the assertions of a Chinese “buy up” of Israel was ridiculous, as “China’s investment in Israel only accounts for 0.4 percent of China’s investment across the world and 3% of the foreign investment flown into Israel.”

Note: In October, under pressure from the US, Israel’s security cabinet announced the formation of a new advisory panel to review foreign investments in the country.

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.

Header: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence, May 13, 2020 (Kobi Gideon/PMO)

Original: HAARETZ – Noa Landau contributed to this report.