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German ambassador to China dies two weeks into the job

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By Reuters
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By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING – Germany’s ambassador to China, Jan Hecker, who was a former foreign policy adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel, has died suddenly, less than two weeks after taking up his post.

Hecker, 54, had presented his credentials at China’s foreign ministry on Aug. 24, the embassy in Beijing told Reuters by social media. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

“I mourn the loss of a highly esteemed, long-standing advisor of deep humanity and outstanding professional expertise,” Merkel, who expressed shock at the news, said in comments posted on Twitter by her spokesman.

In the Chinese capital, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also offered condolences, when asked about the death.

“We are shocked to learn about the sudden death of Ambassador Hecker, who had been working actively to promote China-Germany relations since assuming his post,” he told a regular media briefing.

China would provide assistance to Hecker’s family and the embassy, he added.

Hecker had appeared “happy and all right” when he hosted an event about German artist Joseph Beuys at his Beijing home last Friday, a guest at the event said.

German and European Union flags flew at half-mast on Monday at the embassy in Beijing.

Hecker had arrived in China on Aug. 1, the embassy said, and like all arrivals would have been required to spend time in quarantine, as a coronavirus precaution.