German ambassador to China, ex-Merkel adviser, dies at 54

FILE – In this June 13, 2019, file photo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, talks to then foreign policy advisor Jan Hecker, left, as she arrives to welcome the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev for a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany. Jan Hecker, Germany’s new ambassador to China, a former adviser to Merkel, has died, the German Foreign Ministry said Monday, Sept, 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s new ambassador to China, who was previously a senior adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel, has died at age 54, the German government said Monday.

The Foreign Ministry announced Jan Hecker’s “sudden death” in a short statement in the early hours of Monday. It didn’t give details of when or where Hecker died, or specify a cause of death.

Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse said “there are no indications that the death is connected to Ambassador Hecker’s political function.” Asked at a regular government news conference whether authorities will release further details, she said that the ministry has nothing to add at present.

Hecker, who became ambassador in August, was married and had three children, according to his biography on the Foreign Ministry website.

He arrived in China on Aug. 1 and presented his credentials on Aug. 24, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Hecker, a former Interior Ministry official and then a judge at Germany’s Federal Administrative Court, started work at the chancellery in 2015 as the head of a unit coordinating refugee policy. He became Merkel’s foreign policy adviser — an influential post, though one with a low public profile — in 2017.

Merkel said in a statement that “Jan Hecker’s death shocks me deeply.”

“I am mourning an esteemed long-time adviser with deep humanity and outstanding expertise,” the chancellor said. She added that she was “full of gratitude” to have worked with him for years and expressed her condolences to his family.

The Chinese government also offered its condolences.

“We are shocked to learn of this sudden death of Ambassador Jan Hecker, who had been working actively to promote China-Germany relations since assuming his post,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

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