Chinese-born U.S. Foreign Service Officer Edward Loo migrated to the United States as an infant, and went on to serve in Taiwan at the time of the infamous 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre — and in mainland China during the period of martial law that followed. Loo’s career as a Foreign Service Officer spanned nearly three decades and took him around the globe, from Asia to Europe and beyond. Loo grew up in San Francisco, California, earned an MA at Columbia University, and joined the Foreign Service in 1987. In Taiwan, Loo witnessed first hand the reactions of shock and dismay that followed the events in Tiananmen Square. Shortly thereafter Loo was transferred to Beijing, where the martial law and other repressive measures instituted by the Chinese government brought tension throughout the country — and in the U.S. Embassy. Loo was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in September, 2017.
Read Edward Loo’s full oral history HERE.
“…it was a shock when the People’s Liberation Army moved in and afterwards there were demonstrations in support of the students on Taiwan.”
Remembering the local reaction in Taiwan to the Tiananmen Square Massacre: “It was stunning for — I think the people. I guess things have changed in the past 30 years where many of the people on Taiwan feel culturally and politically and socially separate from the mainland but, back then, I think most people were still invested in this common Chinese identity. And on top of that they were in political opposition to the Chinese Communists. So, they were excited by the student demonstrations and it was kind of the beginning of CNN there. It was non-stop news and you could be watching it 24/7 on Taiwan television. As a result, it was a shock when the People’s Liberation Army moved in and afterwards there were demonstrations in support of the students on Taiwan. There were all types of rumors . . . about what was happening in Beijing at that time.”
“This was right after Tiananmen Square and the crackdown. Beijing was still under martial law.”
What life was like at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing following the massacre: “That was still one of the more profound experiences I’ve had in the Foreign Service. This was right after Tiananmen Square and the crackdown. Beijing was still under martial law. I got there after the embassy operation had more or less normalized, the evacuation order had been lifted and people and their families were back. But it was still a very tense time. The first year I was there we were still sheltering the dissident Fang Lizhi and his wife in the embassy so that meant even an extra layer of Chinese security around the chancery compound and our offices. The Chinese government essentially had plainclothes security men surrounding the compound where they believed Fang and his wife were hiding. That compound also housed our offices. I remember one incident that turned out to be a little humorous. One Saturday, after having shopped at the duty free store, I drove onto the compound with our offices to pick up the newspapers. When I left, I attracted a caravan of Chinese security who followed me up to the parking lot of my housing compound. When I opened the trunk, I think they were disappointed to see that I hadn’t smuggled Fang and his wife out, but rather, had only done a beer run for some cases of Heineken and Carlsberg. On the whole, it was tense, the first year, but it was a great learning experience. I worked with people that I admired, and got to know a lot of the international correspondents who were there covering the China story. So, it was, again, a very profound experience for me.”
Drafted by Tyler Ventura