King George Tupou V of Tonga dies in Hong Kong hospital

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

George Tupou V, the king of Tonga, has died after ten days in intensive care in a Hong Kong hospital. The 63-year-old brought democracy to his nation of 115,000 people.

The reformist swore into power in 2006 but his coronation was pushed back two years in the wake of Nuku'alofa rioting. Eight died in violence stirred up in response to perceived inadequacy in the pace of reforms.

The King opted to be driven around in a London taxi.

After another two years he made good on a promise to end feudal rule after 165 years, introducing a democratically elected parliament in 2010. Although the public chose nine representatives, he appointed the rest of the 33 that formed the parliament. He also picked the cabinet.

Thousands attended his 2008 coronation, including foreign leaders and hundreds of nobles. Outside his nation of islands, he was known as an eccentric who wore monocles and pith helmets, was chauffeured in a London black cab, and used model sailboats on his swimming pool.

King Tupou V has twice undergone surgery in the last year, once to remove a kidney and once to undergo a liver transplant. Unmarried, his younger brother Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka is next in line to the throne. Crown Prince Lavaka was at the King's bedside when he died.