By Salim Yunusa
Hecker had only been in the ambassadorial role for a few days. The 54-year-old previously worked as a foreign policy adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The German ambassador to China and Angela Merkel confidant Jan Hecker has died after only a few days in the ambassadorial role, the Foreign Ministry announced on Monday morning.
“It is with deep sadness and dismay that we learned of the sudden death of the German ambassador in China,” the ministry said in a statement.
Hecker and his family arrived in Beijing in August, and he had submitted his diplomatic credentials and had begun working at the end of the month.
The ministry has yet to provide further details as to the cause of death.
Hecker’s deputy, Frank Rückert, will take over ambassadorial duties for the time being.
Chancellor Angela Merkel released a statement Monday morning expressing her condolences.
“I am profoundly shaken by Jan Hecker’s death,”the statement said. “I mourn for a highly valued, longstanding adviser of deep humanity and outstanding expertise.”
Before taking up the Beijing post last month, Hecker had been a foreign policy adviser to Chancellor Merkel.
After joining Merkel’s chancellery office in 2015, Hecker worked at the head of a newly-formed team coordinating refugee policy .
During the so-called migrant crisis of 2015, Hecker was therefore instrumental in trying to realize Angela Merkel’s plans to take in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, under her “we can do this” (“wir schaffen das”) motto.
This helped push Hecker closer into Merkel’s inner circle.
In 2017, Hecker was made head of the foreign, security and development policy department at the chancellery, a role in which he would accompany the chancellor on her travels.
A legal scholar, Hecker worked as a judge with Germany’s Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) from 2011 to 2015. Before that he had been employed at the Interior Ministry.
Hecker was born in 1967 in the northern German city of Kiel. He was married with three children.
“I think with gratitude of our work together and am happy to have been so closely tied to him for years. My deepest sympathy goes out to his wife, his children and his other loved ones in their immeasurable grief,” Merkel’s statement said.