Anthony Lawrence, legendary BBC journalist, dies aged 101 in Hong Kong | South China Morning Post
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  • Jan 26, 2015
  • Updated: 8:45am
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OBITUARY

Anthony Lawrence, legendary BBC journalist, dies aged 101 in Hong Kong

Anthony Lawrence, who also helped found German newspaper Die Zeit, dies at 101

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 October, 2013, 12:53pm

Anthony (Tony) Lawrence, one of Hong Kong's best known foreign correspondents, has died in Grantham Hospital at the age of 101. From 1958 until 1974 he was the voice of the BBC in Southeast Asia.

From bases in Hong Kong and Singapore Lawrence demonstrated a unique ability to convey the reality of life in this region by using his extraordinary range of contacts with ordinary people who are usually confined to the background of news reports.

Lawrence reported on the Vietnam war, the 1960s riots in Hong Kong and Malaysia and a host of other big stories. In the days before China allowed the establishment of Western press bureaus on the mainland, Lawrence's brief included "China watching" from Hong Kong.

He was among the first reporters to reveal the extent of China's Great Famine, which began in the late 1950s, getting a lead from local friends who were sending food parcels to relatives across the border. By asking the Post Office to confirm the number of food parcels being dispatched he quickly realised that this was an enormous problem.

Lawrence's retirement from the BBC in 1974 marked a new stage in his career as an author and a much loved broadcaster for RTHK and Commercial Radio.

As he always regarded news as being primarily about people, he readily volunteered to work with International Social Services, which provides assistance to refugees and migrants alongside a host of family protection services.

He became its chairman in 1988 and in 2002 his work was recognised when the ISS opened the Anthony Lawrence Refuge for Newcomers. Lawrence was awarded Hong Kong's Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2012 and received an OBE in Britain's 2013 Honours List. Typically his response was: "I really can't see why I got this honour."

Lawrence was renowned for his modesty and charm, qualities that must have helped him as an army captain who was part of the delicate programme to remove Nazi influence from the German media in the wake of the second world war. He helped found Die Zeit, which became one of Germany's leading newspapers.

In Germany he met the formidable Irmgard Noll, who became his second wife in 1946. Sylvia, Lawrence's first wife, died in London during the war.

Ten years later Lawrence persuaded the BBC to move him to Singapore. "I was a damned nuisance," he explained. "They wanted to get me as far away as possible." The pair quickly developed a love for the region and never left. In the harshly competitive world of foreign correspondents, Lawrence was known as a friendly and helpful colleague.

 

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