King of Tonga dies in Hong Kong

Tonga's newly crowned monarch, King Siaosi (George) Tupou V, salutes as he departs the Coronation Military Parade in Nuku'alofa on August 2, 2008.



The South Pacific nation of Tonga is in mourning after King George Tupou V died Sunday in Hong Kong.

Tupou V, who was 63, played a key role in bringing democratic reforms to the last Polynesian monarchy. 

He passed away a few hours after being rushed to a Hong Kong hospital, and died with his younger brother, Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka, at his side, the Matangi Tonga Online reported.

Tupou V, who was a bachelor, will be succeeded by his brother as ruler of the 170-island archipelago country.

There was no immediate information about cause of death. Agence France-Presse reported that six months ago, the king had a kidney removed after a tumor was found.

Tonga has entered a period of mourning, and a state funeral is being organized, the BBC reported. Radio stations are playing religious hymns, and government workers have been directed to wear black.

More from GlobalPost: Tough times for Australian billionaires

Tupou V was sworn in as king of Tonga in September 2006 following the death of his father, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.  

But his coronation ceremony was delayed until 2008 after rioters, angry over the slow pace of democratic reform, destroyed parts of the capital, Nuku’alofa. 

AFP said Tonga's monarch was "known to the outside world for eccentricities such as his elaborate uniforms and being driven around in a London taxi."

An obituary in the Daily Telegraph said Tupou V "was reported to enjoy sailing model boats in his swimming pool and playing computer games," and he also launched a brand of beer called Royal.

According to the BBC, Tonga's Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano described the period of mourning as a time when a "black storm cloud" is engulfing the country.

More from GlobalPost: How did people in the South Pacific get so fat?

Related Stories