George Tupou V, the King of Tonga, died in a Hong Kong hospital on Sunday. He was 63.
Tupou V was best-known for introducing democracy to Tonga, after riots following his rise to the throne in 2006. He was visiting Hong Kong with his brother, Crown Prince Tupouto’a Lavaka, who is heir to the throne.
The king, who was educated in Oxford, said he would give up most of his power in the last Polynesian monarchy, and allow the prime minister govern for the most part. The first democratic elections in that country were in 2010, coming after 165 years of feudal rule. For this, Tupou was revered by the 115,000 people of Tonga, regardless of some eccentricities he’d maintained – including donning colonial-era pith helmets and a monocle, being driven around in a London taxi and sailing model boats in his swimming pool. What else would he do?
The cause of death of the colorful ruler was not known yesterday, but he had underwent a successful kidney procedure six months ago after a tumor was discovered. The king died with his brother at his bedside.
Though popular, Tupou V did make a few enemies in the conservative people of Tonga, by introducing more mobile devices and internet access to the region, and by a encouraging a more market-driven economy. He also controlled the Tongan internet country code “.to,” and sold domain names to any interested party, which are popular due to their potential in constructing standout, memorable URL’s such as “cr.yp.to.”