Shi­mon Peres, 93, was fond of China

Is­raeli states­man was pop­u­lar fig­ure who had Weibo ac­count be­fore 2014 China visit

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG QINGYUN in Bei­jing wangqingyun@chi­nadaily.com. cn

Shi­mon Peres, the last of Is­rael’s found­ing fa­thers, who died at age 93 on Wednes­day morn­ing, was no stranger to the Chi­nese peo­ple.

The pop­u­lar­ity of the leader, who had served terms as Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter and pres­i­dent, rose sig­nif­i­cantly in China when he opened an ac­count on the Sina Weibo so­cial me­dia plat­form ahead of his state visit as Is­raeli pres­i­dent in April 2014.

On Wednes­day, a mes­sage was posted on the ac­count con­firm­ing his death. More than 1,000 com­ments were posted ex­press­ing con­do­lences.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Premier Li Ke­qiang and Chair­man of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee Zhang De­jiang sent tele­grams to their Is­raeli coun­ter­parts ex­press­ing their sym­pa­thy.

In his tele­gram to Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin, Xi called Peres a veteran states­man and diplo­mat, as well as the ini­tia­tor and pro­moter of the peace process in the Mid­dle East.

“He had vis­ited China many times and had made an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of China-Is­raeli re­la­tions. Mr Peres’ pass­ing caused the Chi­nese peo­ple to lose an old friend,” Xi said, em­pha­siz­ing that China at­taches great im­por­tance to de­vel­op­ing bi­lat­eral ties.

For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang is­sued a news re­lease ex­press­ing con­do­lences.

Peres had been shar­ing his pub­lic ac­tiv­i­ties on his Sina Weibo ac­count, which has drawn more than 400,000 fol­low­ers. His lat­est post was about his meet­ing an Is­raeli soc­cer player on Aug 28 who now plays for a Guangzhou club.

Af­ter be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized in Jan­uary for car­diac ar­rest, Peres in early Fe­bru­ary posted a video of his wish­ing Chi­nese peo­ple a happy Chi­nese new year.

“China is all the time in­no­vat­ing new things. What China did over the last 40 or 50 years is un­matched in his­tory,” he said in the video. “I’m very glad the re­la­tions be­tween China and Is­rael are all the time grow­ing in con­tent ...”

He also wrote the lyrics for

Mr Peres’ pass­ing caused the Chi­nese peo­ple to lose an old friend.” Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping

Chi­nese Melody, a song ap­plaud­ing China-Is­rael friend­ship that was per­formed by Chi­nese and Is­raeli singers, and pub­lished a greet­ing ahead of the Chi­nese New Year in 2016.

“Happy New Year. Ear­lier Happy New Year to the peo­ple of China, all of them,” Reuters quoted Peres as say­ing.

Peres, who served as the hon­orary pres­i­dent of a China-friendly or­ga­ni­za­tion in Is­rael aimed at pro­mot­ing bi­lat­eral ties, at­tended the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Bei­jing, and wrote a poem for the event.

The state visit in April 2014 was the last time he trav­eled to China as Is­raeli pres­i­dent. But his ef­forts to pro­mote China-Is­raeli re­la­tions went on even af­ter his pres­i­den­tial term ended later that year.

Peres was awarded the 1994 No­bel Peace Prize, with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, for ad­vanc­ing peace talks.

In De­cem­ber, at the age of 92, he trav­eled to Shan­tou, Guang­dong prov­ince, to at­tend the ground­break­ing of the Guang­dong Tech­nion-Is­rael In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

Wu Sike, for­mer spe­cial en­voy to the Mid­dle East, said Peres, who un­der­stood China very well, had al­ways adopted an open at­ti­tude to­ward China, and showed great in­ter­est in the coun­try’s re­form and open­ing-up.

Zhou Wa, a China Daily re­porter who cov­ered Peres’ visit to China in 2014, said the then Is­raeli pres­i­dent left her with the im­pres­sion of be­ing vig­or­ous, ar­tic­u­late and highly log­i­cal.

“He was a wise old man who kept ac­cu­mu­lat­ing knowl­edge,” she said.

AP FILE PHOTO

Then-Is­raeli pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres hugs chil­dren dur­ing a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony held by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing on April 8, 2014.

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