UPDATED: Germany says no indication death of its Beijing envoy was political

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A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Monday there was no reason to believe that the sudden death of Jan Hecker, Germany’s newly appointed ambassador to Beijing, had a political dimension.

“There is no indication that the death is linked to his political function,” ministry spokesperson Andrea Sasse told a regular news conference in Berlin.

Hecker died suddenly, less than two weeks after taking up his post, the European nation’s foreign office said on Monday.

Hecker, 54, a foreign policy adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel, had presented his credentials at China’s foreign ministry on Aug. 24, the embassy in the Chinese capital told Reuters by social media.

The cause of death had yet to be confirmed.

“It is with deep sadness and dismay that we learned of the sudden death of the German ambassador to China,” Germany’s Federal Foreign Office said on its website.

An embassy spokesman declined further comment to Reuters.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin offered condolences when asked about Hecker’s death during a regular media briefing.

“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 said.

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.

Photo: A file photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Jan Hecker (L) . EPA-EFE/ANNEGRET HILSE / POOL