King Tupou V of Tonga, who championed democracy in the Pacific Island nation and relinquished most of his powers, has died in Hong Kong.
“He believed that the monarchy was an instrument of change and can truly be seen as the architect of evolving democracy in Tonga,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said today in an e-mailed statement. Three days before his coronation in 2008, Tupou announced he would give up most of his powers and be guided by his prime minister’s recommendations on most matters, Key said.
Oxford-educated Tupou, 63, also known as King George, died in the presence of his brother and heir to the throne, Tupouto’a Lavaka, Agence France-Presse reported. The late monarch had a liver transplant last year and suffered other health problems, according to Tongan media reports.
After being sworn in as king in September 2006 following the death of his father King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, his coronation was delayed until 2008 as the kingdom reeled from the impact of riots in the capital, Nuku’alofa, AFP said. Eight people died in the capital in November 2006 in protests for quicker political reform, it said.
The nation of more than 100,000 people comprises about 170 islands and lies about 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) north of New Zealand.