King of Tonga dies at age 63
March 19, 2012 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
King George Tupou V had been monarch of the South Pacific nation of Tonga since 2006.
- NEW: The king helped modernize Tongo and push for reforms, a Tongan news editor says
- A cause of death has not been released
- King George Tupou V had been monarch since 2006
- Tonga is the only monarchy that remains in the Pacific
(CNN) -- The king of the South Pacific nation of Tonga died "peacefully" Sunday at a hospital in Hong Kong, a Tongan government official said Monday. He was 63.
A cause of death has not been released by the government.
"Tonga has just woken up to the sad news of the passing of King George Tupou V," said Paula Ma'u, an official in the Ministry of Information and Communication. "We are all in mourning."
Ma'u said Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka, heir to the throne, was with the king "just before he passed away."
Pesi Fonua, editor of Matangi Tonga online news website, said the Oxford-educated king was known for his world travel and spending habits, but was also respected for his efforts to bring democratic reforms and modernize Tongo.
"This king brought in things like mobile phones and other advances that we couldn't dream would come to Tonga, and his push for democracy made a big impact on the people here," Fonua said.
However, he said, Tongans had "mixed feelings here in the community" about the king.
"He lived a bachelor life, always a single man, and he traveled a lot around the world and spent money. He brought us in some ways forward into the 21st century, but some people have different -- not as good -- views on him."
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed her condolences in a statement Monday, crediting George V with guiding "his country through a critical process of constitutional change towards the establishment of a constitutional monarchy."
Tonga, with a population of 106,000, is the only monarchy that remains in the Pacific. George V ascended to the throne after the death of his father in September 2006 and quickly promised to speed up government reforms demanded by the people.
"Let us rebuild a new capital and a new Tonga," George V said in 2006, a week after a pro-democracy rally in the capital city of Nuku'alofa led to riots that left eight people dead and the central business district in ruins.
In 2008, he announced he was giving up most of the near-absolute power that his family held for centuries and allowing the prime minister to guide the day-to-day governmental affairs.
Tonga is an archipelago of 171 islands directly south of Western Samoa. Less than a third of the islands are inhabited. The present dynasty was founded in 1845 after the Tongan islands were first united.
CNN's Brian Walker contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 0718 GMT (1518 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
Today's five most popular stories