The ambassador was found in the morning and no official statement was made immediately. Du Wei had only arrived in Israel in February when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height in his home country
Chinese Ambassador to Israel Du Wei was found dead in his home on Sunday, sparking rumors and an avalanche of media coverage.
There is no evidence that anything but natural causes was involved. However, the death of the ambassador of a high-profile state like China at this complex time – amid the coronavirus pandemic and in the wake of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit, with stories about US pressure on Israel regarding China relations – feeds online conspiracy theories.
First of all, the story spread widely throughout international media, from Hebrew media to reports at the BBC, CNN and other outlets.
The ambassador was found in the morning at his Herzliya apartment, and no official statement was made immediately. Du Wei had only arrived in Israel in February when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height in his home country.
He arrived to an Israel that was already putting in place regulations regarding travel from affected countries. He was 52 years old and taking over from the previous ambassador, who had worked hard on Israel-China relations.
But the US was increasingly concerned about China’s role in Haifa Port and a desalination plant.
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan had come in October 2019, the most high-profile visit by a Chinese official, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the growing friendship with China. This comes as China is touting its Belt and Road Initiative for the Middle East.
The level of conspiracies and anti-China comments after the death of the ambassador reached a crescendo on Sunday afternoon.
Some wrote that China should be “sent packing,” and another said, “Something smells fishy here.”
Some thought a spy movie was coming after Pompeo’s critique.
“A long list of suspects,” wrote one person. “Sounds like CSI,” a reference to the US murder investigative show.
Others postulated that the ambassador died of COVID-19. More reasonable comments on Tweeter and Facebook included assertions that the “optics do not look good.” Others expressed condolences and sadness.
The rumor-mill conspiracy theories posited that Du Wei’s former posting in Ukraine somehow overshadowed his mission in Israel. Russia has been accused of assassinations in Ukraine. For instance, Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of trying to recruit assassins to target journalist Arkady Babchenko.
A bomb wounded a politician in 2017 in Kiev. It is not clear why that would have any impact on a Chinese ambassador in Ukraine, since Russia and China have good relations.
Among the responses to a tweet by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid were comments such as: “China taking care of loose ends,” “I heard he was recently reassigned to Israel from Ukraine,” and “I’m not being a conspiracist but it’s rather odd to hear this news soon after Pompeo’s visit.”