Shimon Peres, 93, was fond of China
Israeli statesman was popular figure who had Weibo account before 2014 China visit
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.
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.