The King of Tonga passed away at the age of 63. He went into an intensive care unit in a Hong Kong hospital about 10 days ago but his condition rapidly deteriorated and he died last night with his younger brother, Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, (Crown Prince and heir to the throne) at his side.
Last year, the King had a kidney transplant after a tumour had been found.
The Tongan Government confirmed his passing on Tongan radio this morning. A statement from the government is expected later this morning.
The news has sparked an outpouring of grief with Tongans turning to social media to pay tribute to Tupou. The news of the King’s death spread quickly on Twitter early today, with many paying tribute.
Christinah Lataisia said: “Black and Purple begin to flood the fales in Tonga to mourn the passing away of our King.”
Tessi Leila Tolutau said: “I am saddened by the news, our beloved King of Tonga has passed away … our country has gone thru major losses in the past couple years.”
Another resident said: “Sad day for our little Kingdom of Tonga. RIP King George Tupou V.”
Tupou was sworn in as King in September 2006 following the death of his father, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. In 2008 he marked his coronation with a $3 million, five-day event which was attended by thousands of people, including the Sultan of Brunei and then New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Ms Clark also paid tribute to the late monarch on Twitter.
“Sad news for Tonga with the death of King George Tupou V. I attended his coronation in Nuku’alofa in 2008. RIP.”
His funeral is not expected to take place until next week.