Jan Hecker, a close confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has died only days after assuming his role in Beijing as German ambassador to China.
“I mourn for a highly regarded long-time adviser, with a deep humanity and extraordinary competence,” Merkel said in an emailed statement Monday in Berlin. “Jan Hecker’s death deeply shocks me,” she added. “I think of our work together with great gratitude and am happy to have been so closely associated with him for years.”
The 54-year-old diplomat belonged to a small circle of Merkel’s close advisers, having gained her trust during the refugee crisis of 2015. Two years later, he became her top foreign policy adviser and was present at her meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall in June.
Merkel, who will step down after this month’s election, sent Hecker as ambassador to China to try to preserve her friendly relations with Beijing, according to a person with knowledge of her thinking who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
Before handing his credentials as German ambassador to the Chinese authorities on Aug. 28, Hecker had to go into quarantine, the official said. He died in Beijing on Sunday.
The cause of Hecker’s death has not been made public. Andrea Sasse, a spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry, told a regular government news conference on Monday that there are “no indications that this death has any link to ambassador Hecker’s political function.”
German authorities also ruled out any connection to health issues U.S. diplomats have experienced in China in the past.
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