China’s ambassador to Israel, Du Wei, was found dead Sunday morning inside his official residence in north of Tel Aviv, Israel.
A spokeswoman for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the Chinese ambassador’s death to CNN. At this time the cause of death is unknown, but is not being treated as suspicious. Du was 57-years-old.
The Chinese embassy in Israel has not provided any statement on Du’s death and neither has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.
According to NBC, China’s foreign ministry said it will provide a statement when it has “solid information” about what happened.
Du arrived at his diplomatic in Israel in February, as the coronavirus pandemic was spreading around the world. He was reportedly made to quarantine for two weeks upon his arrival in the country.
In a May 6 opinion article, published to the Israeli newspaper Yated Ne’eman and shared on Chinese embassy’s website, Du wrote that other countries blaming China for the coronavirus are “scapegoating” and said “the disease is the enemy of all mankind, and the world must fight it together.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel only days before on May 13 to discuss the country’s coronavirus response and ongoing threats posed by Iran. During his visit, Pompeo also took a veiled jab at China, when he told Netanyahu, “You’re a great partner. You share information, unlike some other countries that try and obfuscate and hide that information, and we’ll talk about that country, too, some.”
Pompeo also reportedly described Chinese investments in the country as a threat.
The Chinese Embassy in Israel published its own response to Pompeo’s comments, in an opinion article shared with the Jerusalem Post.
“Before and after his visit to Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made some absurd comments on China, which can be summarized into three ill-intentioned accusations, namely, ‘the origin of Coronavirus is China,’ ‘China hid the information of COVID-19’ and ‘China’s investments are threats,'” the embassy’s opinion article reads.
The article goes on to dispute the origins of the coronavirus, and claim China did not conceal information about its spread. It also suggests Chinese investments are safe, despite Pompeo’s comments, and “Chinese businesses are enthusiastic to cooperate with Israeli partners.”
One particular issue surrounding Chinese investment in Israel has been the Haifa Port and a desalination plant. U.S. officials have shown increased concern over Chinese involvement in the infrastructure projects, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The timing of Du’s death and the open tension between the U.S. and China has led many to theorize about the cause of his death. According to the Post, some commentators suggested various theories about Du’s death, such as that Pompeo may have had a role to play in his demise, or that China was seeking to get rid of him.
“I’m not being a conspiracist but it’s rather odd to hear this news soon after Pompeo’s visit,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the news. “China taking care of loose ends,” another said.
The theories appear to most commonly reference Pompeo, though many different ones abound despite the initial finding that the death appears to have been natural.