Magazine article Geographical
In November last year, rioting erupted on the South Pacific island of Tonga. The central business district of the capital, Nukv'alufa, was largely destroyed as protestors targeted government buildings, businesses and hotels. Eight people were killed and the Chinese government evacuated more than 200 of its citizens. More than 500 people were subsequently arrested.
In response, Australia and New Zealand sent 150 police officers and members of their armed forces to help the Tongan government restore law and order. Australian naval vessels, dispatched to the region to patrol in waters close to Fiji because of fears that a military coup was imminent, were stationed in international waters adjacent to Tonga in case further evacuations were necessary.
For an archipelago once labelled the Friendly Islands by Captain James Cook, the riots were highly unusual. Since 1875, Tonga has been governed by a constitutional monarchy. It became a British protectorate in 1900; the protectorate was dissolved in 1970 when Tonga gained independence.
In September last year, a new king, Siaosi Tupou V, was crowned, following the death of his father, Tupou IV, who had ruled for 40 years. Before his death, Tupou had been criticised by the Tongan Times for a series of unsuccessful investment strategies. The late king's decision to send 40 troops to Iraq in 2004 in support of the USA was also unpopular. …