Ex-BBC journalist Anthony Lawrence wins OBE

Ex-BBC journalist is awarded OBE for his voluntary work in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 4:06am

A former veteran BBC correspondent has been awarded the OBE in recognition of decades of community service to Hong Kong.

It is the second accolade in 12 months for longtime Hong Kong resident and Briton Anthony Lawrence, 100, who was awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star in June.

Lawrence, who celebrated his centenary in August, said he was "absolutely thrilled" to receive the OBE and pleased that Queen Elizabeth II "had remembered him" after her letter last year.

"He got the Bauhinia and OBE in one year," said Hong Kong journalist Stephen Vines.

"It's just fantastic. He was the only Hongkonger in the New Year's list. I really can't think of anyone better to get it."

Former Hong Kong governor and chairman of the BBC Trust Chris Patten said: "I am delighted that one of Britain's greatest journalists in the last 60 years has been honoured again. He has been a wonderful example of his profession's highest standards."

Lawrence is widely known for his work as BBC Far East correspondent from 1956 until his retirement in 1974, during which time he risked his life many times to cover the drawn-out Vietnam war and revealed the famine that killed millions under Mao Zedong on the mainland.

But the OBE is in recognition of his decades of service to the Hong Kong branch of International Social Service (ISS-HK).

Lawrence was a committee member and was then chairman from 1988 to 2003 as it helped the needy coming into the city.

"We at ISS-HK are delighted at Tony getting a British honour, an OBE, on the heels of his SAR gong," said ISS Hong Kong chairman Ho Chang-pong. "In a way it was a long time coming."

While Lawrence these days is frail and regularly requires extra oxygen, he still attends ISS meetings. Friend and ISS colleague Anne Marden said Lawrence oversaw the ISS when thousands of boatpeople who fled Vietnam came to Hong Kong. Fellow broadcaster and friend Aileen Bridgewater said: "I thought the OBE for Tony was so well deserved. [For his 90th birthday] the ISS named The Anthony Lawrence Refuge [in Yuen Long] after Tony to recognise his hard work … I think Tony takes great pride in this refuge and his work."

BBC News head of newsgathering Helen Boaden said: "When he was our Far East correspondent, his work was marked by his ability to give a human face to his reports on events there.

"He then worked tirelessly for over three decades in the voluntary sector in Hong Kong … this honour is a lovely way to mark his outstanding contribution."

Lawrence, along with Clare Hollingworth - who is a year older at 101 and also has an OBE - are ambassadors for the Foreign Correspondents' Club.

Lawrence is known for his self-deprecating humour and his positive approach. In a speech to mark his centenary at the FCC, he said he was just "an ordinary sort of chap" who had been "lucky in his friends".