Beijing / Berlin (dpa) – Shortly after taking office in Beijing, Germany’s new Ambassador to China, Jan Hecker, passed away suddenly.
Before assuming the important diplomatic function in the Chinese capital, the 54-year-old was a close foreign policy adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). The cause of his death was initially uncertain.
“It is with deep sadness and dismay that we are greeted by the sudden death of the German Ambassador to China, the experienced Professor Dr. Jan Hecker,” the Foreign Ministry said on Monday. Born in Kiel, he was married and the father of three children. He had only taken up his post in August.
After arriving in Beijing, the top diplomat and his family first went through the usual quarantine in China due to the corona pandemic. Hecker then surrendered his credentials in Beijing on August 24 and began working regularly.
“The death of Jan Hecker shakes me deeply,” said the Chancellor in Berlin. “I mourn the loss of a highly esteemed long-term advisor with a deep humanity and exceptional expertise.” She thinks of her collaboration “with gratitude”. “My deepest condolences go out to his wife, children and other loved ones in their immeasurable pain.”
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said he was dismayed: “Our country is losing an accomplished diplomat and the Foreign Ministry is losing an exceptional and valued colleague.” A senior Beijing Foreign Ministry official said, “What sad and shocking news. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters: “We are shocked to learn of the sudden death of Ambassador Jan Hecker. He expressed his condolences to the family.
A prominent representative for a German company in Beijing said Hecker was always in a good mood during a cultural event at the embassy on Friday. “Tragic. He was such a smart and reserved man. A good listener.”
Before being posted to China, Hecker had been head of the Chancellery’s Foreign Affairs, Security and Development Department since 2017, making him a close confidant of the Chancellor. He accompanied Merkel on her travels.
After the legislative elections and the end of Merkel’s chancellery, observers said, Hecker should ensure the continuity of the difficult relations with the emerging great power China. Representatives of the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressly welcomed his appointment and stressed his closeness to the Chancellor, who is adopting a more cautious attitude in the face of growing tensions between Europe and China.
He was the first foreign policy adviser to the Chancellor who did not follow the classic diplomatic career, and he was considered a peerless climber. The lawyer and political scientist worked as a judge at the Federal Administrative Court from 2011 to 2015, after having worked at the Ministry of the Interior from 1999 to 2011.
Her then boss, the current Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU), wrote about her on Twitter: “His sense of duty, his human and professional skills and his extensive training were exceptional.”
In 2015, Hecker became head of the new coordinating staff for refugee policy. During the refugee crisis, he was largely responsible for fulfilling the Chancellor’s promise “We can do it”. He thus settles in the center of power and on Merkel’s side.
After the announcement of his death, the flags of the Embassy in Beijing fluttered at half mast. German diplomats declined to comment on the circumstances of the death and referred to the Foreign Ministry. Hecker’s representative, Envoy Frank Rückert, is now temporarily assuming the role of Ambassador.