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Coordinates: 20°S175°W / 20°S 175°W / -20; -175


Kingdom of Tonga

Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga (Tongan)
Motto: "Ko e ʻOtua mo Tonga ko hoku tofiʻa"
"God and Tonga are my Inheritance"
Anthem:  Ko e fasi ʻo e tuʻi ʻo e ʻOtu Tonga
The Song of the King of the Tongan Islands
Tonga on the globe (Polynesia centered).svg
Tonga - Location Map (2013) - TON - UNOCHA.svg
and largest city
21°08′S175°12′W / 21.133°S 175.200°W / -21.133; -175.200
Official languages
Ethnic groups
(2018 [1] )
Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga [2]
Demonym(s) Tongan
Government Unitary parliamentary
constitutional monarchy
Tupou VI
Pohiva Tuʻiʻonetoa
Fatafehi Fakafanua
Legislature Legislative Assembly
 from British protection
4 June 1970
748 km2 (289 sq mi)(175th)
 Water (%)
 2016 census
100,651 [3]
139/km2 (360.0/sq mi)(76tha)
GDP  (PPP)2019 estimate
$655 million
 Per capita
$6,496 [4]
GDP  (nominal)2019 estimate
$493 million
 Per capita
$4,888 [4]
HDI  (2017)Increase2.svg 0.726 [5]
high ·  98th
Currency Paʻanga (TOP)
Time zone UTC +13
Driving side left
Calling code +676
ISO 3166 code TO
Internet TLD .to
  1. Based on 2005 figures.

Tonga ( /ˈtɒŋ(ɡ)ə/ ; Tongan: [ˈtoŋa] [6] Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), officially named the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. [1] The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. The state has a population of 100,651 people, [7] [8] of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.

Tonga stretches across approximately 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line. It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast, Niue to the east (which is the nearest foreign territory), Kermadec (part of New Zealand) to the southwest, and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the farther west. It is about 1,800 kilometres (1,100 mi) from New Zealand's North Island.

From 1900 to 1970, Tonga had British protected state status, with the United Kingdom looking after its foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship. The country never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power. [9] In 2010, Tonga took a decisive path towards becoming a constitutional monarchy rather than a traditional absolute kingdom, after legislative reforms passed a course for the first partial representative elections.


In many Polynesian languages, including Tongan, the word tonga comes from fakatonga, which means "southwards", as the archipelago is the southernmost group of the islands of central Polynesia. [10] The word tonga is cognate to the Hawaiian region of Kona , meaning leeward in the Hawaiian language. [11]

Tonga became known in the West as the "Friendly Islands" because of the congenial reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit in 1773. He arrived at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the First Fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, the chiefs wanted to kill Cook during the gathering but could not agree on a plan. [12]


The arrival of Abel Tasman in Tongatapu, 1643; drawing by Isaack Gilsemans Tasman-dagboek-a.jpg
The arrival of Abel Tasman in Tongatapu, 1643; drawing by Isaack Gilsemans
Page from the ship's log of Abel Tasman with the description of t' Eijlandt Amsterdam, nowadays Tongatapu NL-HaNA 121 0051 Scheepsjournaal Abel Tasman 35.jpg
Page from the ship's log of Abel Tasman with the description of t' Eijlandt Amsterdam, nowadays Tongatapu

An Austronesian-speaking group linked to the archaeological construct known as the Lapita cultural complex reached and inhabited Tonga around 1500–1000  BC. [14] Scholars have much debated the exact dates of the initial settlement of Tonga, but thorium dating confirms that the first settlers came to the oldest town, Nukuleka, by 888 BC, ± 8 years. [15] Not much is known before European contact because of the lack of a writing system, but oral history has survived and been recorded after the arrival of the Europeans.

By the 12th century, Tongans and the Tongan paramount chief, the Tuʻi Tonga, had a reputation across the central Pacific—from Niue, Samoa, Rotuma, Wallis & Futuna, New Caledonia to Tikopia—leading some historians to speak of a Tuʻi Tonga Empire. In the 15th century and again in the 17th, civil war erupted.

William Mariner was a teenage English sailor adopted into a royal Tongan family. William Mariner (1791-1853) crop.jpg
William Mariner was a teenage English sailor adopted into a royal Tongan family.

The Tongan people first encountered Europeans in 1616 when the Dutch vessel Eendracht, captained by Willem Schouten, made a short visit to trade. Later came other Dutch explorers, including Jacob Le Maire (who called on the northern island of Niuatoputapu); and in 1643 Abel Tasman (who visited Tongatapu and Haʻapai). Later noteworthy European visitors included James Cook (Royal Navy) in 1773, 1774, and 1777; Spanish Navy explorers Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa in 1781 and Alessandro Malaspina in 1793; the first London missionaries in 1797; and the Wesleyan Methodist Reverend Walter Lawry in 1822.

Whaling vessels were among the earliest regular western visitors. The first on record is the Ann & Hope which was reported among the islands of Tonga in June 1799. [16] The last known whaling visitor was the Albatross in 1899. They came for water, food and wood. The islands most regularly visited were Ata, 'Eua, Ha'apai, Tongatapu and Vava'u. Sometimes men from the islands were recruited to serve as crewmen on these vessels.

The US Exploring Expedition visited in 1840. [17]

In 1845, the ambitious young warrior, strategist, and orator Tāufaʻāhau united Tonga into a kingdom. He held the chiefly title of Tuʻi Kanokupolu, but had been baptised by Methodist missionaries with the name Siaosi ("George") in 1831. In 1875, with the help of missionary Shirley Waldemar Baker, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy; formally adopted the western royal style; emancipated the "serfs"; enshrined a code of law, land tenure, and freedom of the press; and limited the power of the chiefs.

Tonga became a protected state under a Treaty of Friendship with Britain on 18 May 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. The treaty posted no higher permanent representative on Tonga than a British Consul (1901–1970). Under the protection of Britain, Tonga maintained its sovereignty, and remained the only Pacific nation to retain its monarchical government (unlike Tahiti and Hawaiʻi). The Tongan monarchy follows an uninterrupted succession of hereditary rulers from one family.[ citation needed ]

The 1918 flu pandemic, brought to Tonga by a ship from New Zealand, killed 1,800 Tongans, reflecting a mortality rate of about eight percent. [18]

The Treaty of Friendship and Tonga's protection status ended in 1970 under arrangements established by Queen Salote Tupou III prior to her death in 1965. Owing to its British ties Tonga joined the Commonwealth in 1970 (atypically as a country with its own monarch rather than that of the United Kingdom, similar to Malaysia, Lesotho, and Swaziland), and became a member of the United Nations in September 1999. While exposed to colonial pressures, Tonga has always governed itself, which makes it unique in the Pacific.

As part of cost-cutting measures across the British Foreign Service, the British Government closed the British High Commission in Nukuʻalofa in March 2006, transferring representation of British interests to the High Commissioner in Fiji. The last resident British High Commissioner was Paul Nessling. [19]


King George, of the Friendly Islands (1852) King George, of the Friendly Islands (1852, p.1, IX) - Copy.jpg
King George, of the Friendly Islands (1852)

Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. Reverence for the monarch replaces that held in earlier centuries for the sacred paramount chief, the Tuʻi Tonga. Criticism of the monarch is held to be contrary to Tongan culture and etiquette. King Tupou VI (a descendant of the first monarch), his family, powerful nobles and a growing non-royal elite caste live in much wealth, with the rest of the country living in relative poverty.

Tonga provides for its citizens a free and mandatory education for all, secondary education with only nominal fees, and foreign-funded scholarships for post-secondary education.

Taufa`ahau, King of Tonga (1845-1893) George Tupou I, c. 1880s.jpg
Tāufaʻāhau, King of Tonga (1845–1893)

The pro-democracy movement in Tonga promotes reforms, including better representation in the Parliament for the majority of commoners, and better accountability in matters of state. An overthrow of the monarchy is not part of the movement and the institution of monarchy continues to hold popular support, even while reforms are advocated. Until recently, the governance issue was generally ignored by the leaders of other countries, but major aid donors and neighbours New Zealand and Australia are now expressing concerns about some Tongan government actions.

Following the precedents of Queen Sālote and the counsel of numerous international advisors,[ who? ] the government of Tonga under King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV (reigned 1965–2006) monetised the economy, internationalised the medical and education system, and enabled access by commoners to increasing forms of material wealth (houses, cars, and other commodities), education, and overseas travel.

Male homosexuality is illegal in Tonga, [21] with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. [22] Tongans have universal access to a national health care system. The Constitution of Tonga protects land ownership: land cannot be sold to foreigners (although it may be leased [23] ). While there is a land shortage on the urbanised main island of Tongatapu (where 70% of the population resides), there is farmland available in the outlying islands. The majority of the population engages in some form of subsistence production of food, with approximately half producing almost all of their basic food needs through farming, sea harvesting, and animal husbandry. Women and men have equal access to education and health care and are fairly equal in employment, but women are discriminated against in land holding, electoral politics, and government ministries.[ citation needed ]

Political culture

King Tupou VI during his coronation on 4 July 2015 Kingtupou.jpg
King Tupou VI during his coronation on 4 July 2015

The previous king, Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, and his government made some problematic economic decisions and were accused[ by whom? ] of wasting millions of dollars on unwise investments. The problems have mostly been driven by attempts to increase national revenue through a variety of schemes: considering making Tonga a nuclear waste disposal site (an idea floated in the mid 1990s by the current crown prince); [24] and selling Tongan Protected Persons Passports (which eventually forced Tonga to naturalise the purchasers, sparking ethnicity-based concerns within Tonga). [25]

Schemes also included the registering of foreign ships (which proved to be engaged in illegal activities, including shipments for al-Qaeda); [26] claiming geo-orbital satellite slots (the revenue from which seems to belong to the Princess Royal, not the state); [27] holding a long-term charter on an unusable Boeing 757 that was sidelined in Auckland Airport, leading to the collapse of Royal Tongan Airlines; [28] and approving a factory for exporting cigarettes to China (against the advice of Tongan medical officials, and decades of health promotion messaging). [29]

The king proved vulnerable to speculators with big promises and lost reportedly US$26 million to Jesse Bogdonoff, a financial adviser who called himself the king's Court Jester. The police imprisoned pro-democracy leaders, and the government repeatedly confiscated the newspaper The Tongan Times (printed in New Zealand and sold in Tonga) because the editor had been vocally critical of the king's mistakes. [30] Notably, the Keleʻa, produced specifically to critique the government and printed in Tonga by pro-democracy leader ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, was not banned during that time. Pōhiva, however, had been subjected to harassment in the form of barratry (frequent lawsuits). [31]

In mid-2003, the government passed a radical constitutional amendment to "Tonganize" the press, by licensing and limiting freedom of the press, so as to protect the image of the monarchy. The amendment was defended by the government and by royalists on the basis of traditional cultural values. Licensure criteria include 80% ownership by Tongans living in the country. As of February 2004, those papers denied licenses under the new act included the Taimi ʻo Tonga (Tongan Times), the Keleʻa, and the Matangi Tonga—while those permitted licenses were uniformly church-based or pro-government.

The Royal palace of Tonga Royal Palace, Nuku'alofa.jpg
The Royal palace of Tonga

The bill was opposed in the form of a several-thousand-strong protest march in the capital, a call by the Tuʻi Pelehake (a prince, nephew of the king and elected member of parliament) for Australia and other nations to pressure the Tongan government to democratise the electoral system, and a legal writ calling for a judicial investigation of the bill. The latter was supported by some 160 signatures, including seven of the nine elected, "People's Representatives".

The then Crown Prince Tupoutoʻa and Pilolevu, the Princess Royal, remained generally silent on the issue. In total, the changes threatened to destabilise the polity, fragment support for the status quo, and place further pressure on the monarchy.

In 2005, the government spent several weeks negotiating with striking civil-service workers before reaching a settlement. The civil unrest that ensued was not limited to Tonga; protests outside the King's New Zealand residence made headlines.

Prime Minister Prince ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho (Lavaka Ata ʻUlukālala) (now King Tupou VI) resigned suddenly on 11 February 2006, and also gave up his other cabinet portfolios. The elected Minister of Labour, Dr Feleti Sevele, replaced him in the interim.

On 5 July 2006, a driver in Menlo Park, California, caused the deaths of Prince Tuʻipelehake ʻUluvalu, his wife, and their driver. Tuʻipelehake, 55, was the co-chairman of the constitutional reform commission, and a nephew of the King.

Riots in Nuku`alofa, 2006 Looters.jpg
Riots in Nukuʻalofa, 2006

The public expected some changes when George Tupou V succeeded his father in September 2006. On 16 November 2006, rioting broke out in the capital city of Nukuʻalofa when it seemed that the parliament would adjourn for the year without having made any advances in increasing democracy in government. Pro-democracy activists burned and looted shops, offices, and government buildings. As a result, more than 60% of the downtown area was destroyed, and as many as 6 people died. [32] The disturbances were ended by action from Tongan Security Forces and troops from New Zealand-led Joint Task Force. [33]

On 29 July 2008, the Palace announced that King George Tupou V would relinquish much of his power and would surrender his role in day-to-day governmental affairs to the Prime Minister. The royal chamberlain said that this was being done to prepare the monarchy for 2010, when most of the first parliament would be elected, and added: "The Sovereign of the only Polynesian kingdom... is voluntarily surrendering his powers to meet the democratic aspirations of many of his people." The previous week, the government said the king had sold state assets that had contributed so much of the royal family's wealth. [34]

On 15 March 2012, King George Tupou V contracted pneumonia and was brought to Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong. He was later diagnosed with leukaemia. His health deteriorated significantly shortly thereafter, and he died at 3:15 pm on 18 March 2012. [35] He was succeeded by his brother Tupou VI, who was crowned [36] on 4 July 2015.

Foreign relations

Tonga's foreign policy as of January 2009 has been described by Matangi Tonga as "Look East"—specifically, as establishing closer diplomatic and economic relations with Asia (which actually lies to the north-west of the Pacific kingdom). Tonga retains cordial relations with the United States. Although it remains on good terms with the United Kingdom, the two countries do not maintain particularly close relations, and the United Kingdom closed its High Commission in Tonga in 2006. Tonga's relations with Oceania's regional powers, Australia and New Zealand, are good. [37]

Tonga maintains strong regional ties in the Pacific. It is a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

In March 2017, at the 34th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, Vanuatu made a joint statement on behalf of Tonga and some other Pacific nations raising human rights violations in the Western New Guinea, which has been occupied by Indonesia since 1963, [38] and requested that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights produce a report. [39] [40] Indonesia rejected allegations. [40] More than 100,000 Papuans have died during a 50-year Papua conflict. [41]


The Tongan government supported the American "coalition of the willing" action in Iraq and deployed 40+ soldiers (as part of an American force) in late 2004. The contingent returned home on 17 December 2004. [42] In 2007 a second contingent went to Iraq, and two more were sent during 2008 as part of continued support for the coalition. Tongan involvement concluded at the end of 2008 with no reported loss of life.

In 2010, Brigadier General Tauʻaika ʻUtaʻatu, Commander of the Tonga Defence Services, signed an agreement in London committing a minimum of 200 troops to co-operate with Britain's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The task completed in April 2014 and the UK presented Operational Service Medals to each of the soldiers involved during a parade held in Tonga. [43]

Tonga has contributed troops and police to the Bougainville conflict in Papua-New Guinea and to the Australian-led RAMSI force in the Solomon Islands.

Administrative divisions

Tonga is sub-divided into five administrative divisions: ʻEua, Haʻapai, Niuas, Tongatapu, and Vavaʻu. [44] [45]


A map of Tonga Tonga sm04.gif
A map of Tonga

Located in Oceania, Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, directly south of Samoa and about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. Its 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited, [1] are divided into three main groups – Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Tongatapu – and cover an 800-kilometre (500-mile)-long north-south line.

The largest island, Tongatapu, on which the capital city of Nukuʻalofa is located, covers 257 square kilometres (99 sq mi). Geologically the Tongan islands are of two types: most have a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations; others consist of limestone overlaying a volcanic base.


The climate is tropical with a distinct warm period (December–April), during which the temperatures rise above 32 °C (89.6 °F), and a cooler period (May–November), with temperatures rarely rising above 27 °C (80.6 °F). The temperature and rainfall range from 23 °C (73.4 °F) and 1,700 millimetres (66.9 inches) on Tongatapu in the south to 27 °C (80.6 °F) and 2,970 millimetres (116.9 inches) on the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The average wettest period is around March with on average 263 mm (10.4 in). [46] The average daily humidity is 80%. The highest temperature recorded in Tonga was 35 °C (95 °F) on 11 February 1979 in Vava'u. The coldest temperature recorded in Tonga was 8.7 °C (47.7 °F) on 8 September 1994 in Fua'amotu. Temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F) or lower are usually measured in the dry season and are more frequent in southern Tonga than in the north of the island. [47] The tropical cyclone season currently runs from 1 November to 30 April, though tropical cyclones can form and affect Tonga outside of the season.

Climate data for Nukuʻalofa
Record high °C (°F)32
Average high °C (°F)28
Daily mean °C (°F)25
Average low °C (°F)22
Record low °C (°F)16
Average rainfall mm (inches)130
Average rainy days111314121210101210101010134
Average relative humidity (%)77787976787775757474737576
Source: Weatherbase [48]


In Tonga, dating back to Tongan legend, flying bats are considered sacred and are the property of the monarchy. Thus they are protected and cannot be harmed or hunted. As a result, flying fox bats have thrived in many of the islands of Tonga. [49] [50]


A Tongan one-cent (seniti taha) coin Coin tonga.JPG
A Tongan one-cent (seniti taha) coin
Nuku Island, Vava`u Nuku Island Vava'u.jpg
Nuku Island, Vavaʻu
Humpback whales of Tonga Majestic Whale Encounters8 - pic by Brandon Cole (15799763491).jpg
Humpback whales of Tonga

Tonga's economy is characterised by a large non-monetary sector and a heavy dependence on remittances from the half of the country's population who live abroad (chiefly in Australia, New Zealand and the United States). The royal family and the nobles dominate and largely own the monetary sector of the economy – particularly the telecommunications and satellite services. Tonga was named the sixth most corrupt country in the world by Forbes magazine in 2008. [51]

Tonga was ranked the 165th safest investment destination in the world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings. [52]

The manufacturing sector consists of handicrafts and a few other very small scale industries, which contribute only about 3% of GDP. Commercial business activities also are inconspicuous and, to a large extent, are dominated by the same large trading companies found throughout the South Pacific. In September 1974, the country's first commercial trading bank, the Bank of Tonga, opened.

Tonga's development plans emphasise a growing private sector, upgrading agricultural productivity, revitalising the squash and vanilla bean industries, developing tourism, and improving communications and transport. Substantial progress has been made, but much work remains to be done. A small but growing construction sector is developing in response to the inflow of aid monies and remittances from Tongans abroad. In recognition of such a crucial contribution the present government has created a new department within the Prime Minister's Office with the sole purpose of catering for the needs of Tongans living abroad. Furthermore, in 2007 the Tongan Parliament amended citizenship laws to allow Tongans to hold dual citizenship. [53]

The tourist industry is relatively undeveloped; however, the government recognises that tourism can play a major role in economic development, and efforts are being made to increase this source of revenue. Cruise ships often stop in Vavaʻu, which has a reputation for its whale watching, game fishing, surfing, beaches and is increasingly becoming a major player in the South Pacific tourism market. [54]

Tonga's postage stamps, which feature colourful and often unusual designs (including heart-shaped and banana-shaped stamps), are popular with philatelists around the world. [55]

In 2005, the country became eligible to become a member of the World Trade Organization. After an initial voluntary delay, Tonga became a full member of the WTO on 27 July 2007.

The Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI), incorporated in 1996, endeavours to represent the interests of its members, private sector businesses, and to promote economic growth in the Kingdom.

Tonga is home to some 106,000 people, but more than double that number live overseas, mainly in the US, New Zealand and Australia. Remittances from the overseas population has been declining since the onset of the 2008 global economic crisis. The tourism industry is improving, but remains modest at under 90,000 tourists per year. [56]


In Tonga, agriculture and forestry (together with fisheries) provide the majority of employment, foreign exchange earnings and food. [57] [58] Rural Tongans rely on both plantation and subsistence agriculture. Plants grown for both market cash crops and home use include bananas, coconuts, coffee beans, vanilla beans, and root crops such as cassava, sweet potato and taro. As of 2001, two-thirds of agricultural land was in root crops. [57]

The processing of coconuts into copra and desiccated (dried) coconut was once the only significant industry, and only commercial export, but deteriorating prices on the world market and lack of replanting brought this once vibrant industry, as in most island nations of the South Pacific, to a complete standstill.

Pigs and poultry are the major types of livestock. Horses are kept for draft purposes, primarily by farmers working their ʻapi ʻuta (a plot of bushland). More cattle are being raised, and beef imports are declining. [53]

The traditional feudal land ownership system meant that farmers had no incentive to invest in planting long-term tree crops on land they did not own, but in the late twentieth century kava and vanilla from larger plantations became the main agricultural exports, together with squash. [57] The export of squash to Japan, beginning in 1987, once brought relief to Tonga's struggling economy, but local farmers became increasingly wary of the Japanese market due to price fluctuations, not to mention the huge financial risks involved. [53] [59]


Energy in Tonga mostly comes from imported diesel. [60] Energy consumption in Tonga is projected to reach around 66 gigawatt hours by 2020. [61] The country aims to reach 50% of renewable energy by 2020. [61]

In view of the decreasing reliability of fossil-fuel electricity generation, its increasing costs and negative environmental side-effects, renewable energy solutions have attracted the government's attention. Together with IRENA, Tonga has charted out a renewable energy based strategy to power the main and outer islands alike. The strategy focuses on Solar Home Systems that turn individual households into small power plants. In addition, it calls for the involvement of local operators, finance institutions and technicians to provide sustainable business models as well as strategies to ensure the effective operation, management and maintenance once the systems are installed. [62]

With the assistance of IRENA, Tonga has developed the 2010–2020 Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM), which aims for a 50% reduction of diesel importation. This will be accomplished through a range of appropriate renewable technologies, including wind and solar, as well as innovative efficiencies. [63]

In 2019, Tonga announced the construction of 6-megawatt solar farm on Tongatapu. [64] The plant will be the second largest solar plant in the Pacific upon completion. [64]


Tonga's population (1961-2003) in thousands Tonga demography.png
Tonga's population (1961–2003) in thousands

Over 70% of the 103,197 [7] [8] inhabitants live on its main island, Tongatapu. Although an increasing number of Tongans have moved into the only urban and commercial centre, Nukuʻalofa, where European and indigenous cultural and living patterns have blended, village life and kinship ties remain influential throughout the country. Despite emigration, Tonga grew in population from about 32,000 in the 1930s to more than 90,000 by 1976. [65]

Ethnic groups

According to the government portal, Tongans, Polynesian by ethnicity with a mixture of Melanesian, represent more than 98% of the inhabitants. 1.5% are mixed Tongans and the rest are European (the majority are British), mixed European, and other Pacific Islanders. In 2001 there were approximately 3,000 or 4,000 Chinese in Tonga, comprising 3 or 4% of the total Tongan population. [66] In 2006, Nukuʻalofa riots mainly targeted Chinese-owned businesses, leading to the emigration of several hundred Chinese [67] so that only about 300 remain. [68]


The Tongan language is the official language, along with English. Tongan, a Polynesian language, is closely related to Wallisian (Uvean), Niuean, Hawaiian, and Samoan.


The Free Wesleyan Church Saione.jpg
The Free Wesleyan Church

Tonga does not have an official state religion. [69] The Constitution of Tonga (Revised 1998) provides for freedom of religion. [70]

In 1928, Queen Salote Tupou III, who was a member of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, established the Free Wesleyan Church as the state religion of Tonga. The chief pastor of the Free Wesleyan Church serves as the representative of the people of Tonga and of the Church at the coronation of a King or Queen of Tonga where he anoints and crowns the Monarch. In opposition to the establishment of the Free Wesleyan Church as a state religion, the Church of Tonga separated from the Free Wesleyan Church in 1928.

Everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and by the Christian faith; for example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease on Sunday, from the beginning of the day at midnight, to the end of the day at midnight. The constitution declares the Sabbath sacred forever. The official figures from the latest government census as of 2011 show that 90% of the population are affiliated with a Christian church or sect, with the four major church affiliations in the kingdom as follows: [71]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent missionaries in 1891 to visit King Siaosi (George) Tupo where they obtained permission to preach.


By some published surveys, Tonga has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. [72] World Health Organization data published in 2014 indicates that Tonga stands 4th overall in terms of countries listed by mean body mass index data. In 2011, 90% of the adult population were considered overweight using NIH interpretation of body mass index (BMI) data, with more than 60% of those obese. [73] 70% of Tongan women aged 15–85 are obese. Tonga and nearby Nauru have the world's highest overweight and obese populations. [74]


Primary education between ages 6 and 14 is compulsory and free in state schools. Mission schools provide about 8% of the primary and 90% of the secondary level of education. State schools make up for the rest. Higher education includes teacher training, nursing and medical training, a small private university, a woman's business college, and a number of private agricultural schools. Most higher education is pursued overseas.

Tongans enjoy a relatively high level of education, with a 98.9% literacy rate, [75] and higher education up to and including medical and graduate degrees (pursued mostly overseas).


Kava culture Faikava.jpg
Kava culture

Humans have lived in Tonga for nearly 3,000 years, since settlement in late Lapita times. Before the arrival of European explorers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Tongans had frequent contacts with their nearest oceanic neighbours, Fiji and Niue. In the 19th century, with the arrival of Western traders and missionaries, Tongan culture changed, especially in religion. As of 2013, almost 98 percent of residents profess Christianity. The people discarded some old beliefs and habits and adopted others.

The start of a Tongan tau`olunga dance Ula fu.jpg
The start of a Tongan tauʻolunga dance

Contemporary Tongans often have strong ties to overseas lands. Many Tongans have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, or the United States to seek employment and a higher standard of living. The United States is the preferred destination for Tongan emigrants, and as of 2000 there were 36,840 Tongans living in the US. [76] More than 8,000 Tongans live in Australia. [77] The Tongan diaspora retains close ties to relatives at home,[ citation needed ] and a significant portion of Tonga's income derives from remittances[ citation needed ] to family members (often aged) who prefer to remain in Tonga.



Rugby union is the national sport, [78] and the national team (ʻIkale Tahi, or Sea Eagles) has performed quite well on the international stage. Tonga has competed in six Rugby World Cups since 1987. The 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups were Tonga's most successful to date, both winning two out of four matches and in a running chance for the quarter finals. In the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Tonga won its first two matches, against the USA 25–15, and Samoa 19–15. They came very close to upsetting the eventual winners of the 2007 tournament, the South African Springboks, losing 30–25. A loss to England, 36–20 in their last pool game ended their hopes of making the knockout stages. Nevertheless, by picking up third place in their pool games behind South Africa and England, Tonga earned automatic qualification for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. In Pool A of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Tonga beat both Japan 31–18 and 5th ranked [79] eventual finalist France 19–14 in the latter pool stages. However, a previous heavy defeat to the All Blacks at the tournament's opener (41–10) and a subsequent tight loss to Canada (25–20) meant that Tonga lost out to France (who also lost to NZ) for the quarter finals due to 2 bonus points and a points difference of 46.

Tonga's best result before 2007 came in 1995, when they beat Côte d'Ivoire 29–11, and 1999 when they beat Italy 28–25 (although with only 14 men they lost heavily to England, 101–10). Tonga perform the Ikale Tahi war dance or Sipi Tau (a form of Kailao) before all their matches. Tonga used to compete in the Pacific Tri-Nations against Samoa and Fiji, which has now been replaced by the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, which now involves Japan, Canada, and the United States. At club level, there are the Datec Cup Provincial Championship and the Pacific Rugby Cup. Rugby union is governed by the Tonga Rugby Football Union, which was a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance and contributed to the Pacific Islanders rugby union team, before they were disbanded in 2009.

Many players of Tongan descent – e.g., Jonah Lomu, Israel Folau, Viliami "William" ʻOfahengaue, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Afeaki, Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Sekope Kepu, George Smith, Wycliff Palu, Sitaleki Timani, Salesi Ma'afu, Anthony and Saia Faingaa, Mark Gerrard, Cooper Vuna, Doug Howlett, Toutai Kefu and Tatafu Polota-Nau – have played for either the All Blacks or the Wallabies. British and Irish Lion and Welsh international player Taulupe "Toby" Faletau is Tongan born and the son of Tongan international Kuli Faletau. Taulupe's cousins and England international players Billy and Mako Vunipola (who is also a British and Irish Lion), are sons of former Tonga rugby captain Fe'ao Vunipola. Rugby is popular among the nation's schools, and students from schools such as Tonga College and Tupou College are regularly offered scholarships in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Rugby league has gained some success. Tonga made their first appearance at a Rugby League World Cup in the 1995 edition where they went out in the first stage but narrowly lost to New Zealand. They have since appeared in each subsequent Rugby League World Cup tournament. In the 2008 Rugby League World Cup Tonga recorded wins against Ireland and Scotland. In the 2017 World Cup, the Tonga side beat New Zealand in Hamilton at Waikato Stadium on 11 November. In addition to the success of the national team, many players of Tongan descent make it big in the Australian National Rugby League competition. These include Willie Mason, Manu Vatuvei, Brent Kite, Willie Tonga, Anthony Tupou, Antonio Kaufusi, Israel Folau, Taniela Tuiaki, Michael Jennings, Tony Williams, Feleti Mateo, Fetuli Talanoa, to name a few. Subsequently, some Tongan rugby league players have established successful careers in the Super League such as Antonio Kaufusi. [80]


Aside from rugby, Tonga has also produced athletes who have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Tonga's only Olympic medal came from the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where Paea Wolfgramm won silver in super heavyweight boxing. One athlete attended the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

American football

Several Tongans have been football players in the National Football League (NFL), including Tuineau Alipate, Spencer Folau, Lakei Heimuli, Steve Kaufusi, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Deuce Lutui, Siupeli Malamala, Tim Manoa, Stan Mataele, Vili Maumau, Alfred Pupunu, Vai Sikahema, and Peter Tuipulotu. [81]


See also

Related Research Articles

History of Tonga aspect of history

The history of Tonga is recorded since the century after 900 BC, when seafarers associated with the Lapita diaspora first settled the islands which now make up the Kingdom of Tonga. Along with Fiji and Samoa, the area served as a gateway into the rest of the Pacific region known as Polynesia. Ancient Tongan mythologies recorded by early European explorers report the islands of 'Ata and Tongatapu as the first islands having been hauled to the surface from the deep ocean by Maui.

Demographics of Tonga Aspect of human geography in Tonga

Tongans, a Polynesian group represent more than 98% of the inhabitants of Tonga. The rest are European, mixed European, and other Pacific Islanders. There also are several hundred Chinese. Almost two-thirds of the population live on its main island, Tongatapu. Although an increasing number of Tongans have moved into the only urban and commercial center, Nukuʻalofa, where European and indigenous cultural and living patterns have blended, village life and kinship ties continue to be important throughout the country. Everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith; for example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, and the constitution declares the Sabbath to be sacred, forever. Other important Christian denominations include Methodists and Roman Catholics.

Nukuʻalofa Capital of Tonga

Nukuʻalofa is the capital of Tonga. It is located on the north coast of the island of Tongatapu, in the country's southernmost island group.

Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV King of Tonga

Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, son of Queen Sālote Tupou III and her consort Prince Viliami Tungī Mailefihi, was the king of Tonga from the death of his mother in 1965 until his own death in 2006.

Tupou VI King of Tonga

ʻAhoʻeitu Tupou VI is the King of Tonga. He is the younger brother and successor of the late King George Tupou V. He was officially confirmed by his brother on 27 September 2006 as the heir presumptive to the Throne of Tonga, as his brother had no legitimate children. He served as Tonga's High Commissioner to Australia, and resided in Canberra until the death of King George Tupou V on 18 March 2012, when ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho became King of Tonga, with the regnal name ʻAhoʻeitu Tupou VI.

George Tupou I King of Tonga

George Tupou I, King of Tonga was originally known as Tāufaʻāhau I, or Tupou Maeakafa Ngininginiofolanga in modern spelling. He adopted the name Siaosi, the Tongan version of George, after King George III of the United Kingdom, when he was baptized in 1831. His nickname was Lopa-ukamea, meaning iron cable.

Royal Tongan Airlines was the national airline of Tonga until liquidation in 2004. It was a government agency and operated interisland services and international routes.

Tongatapu island

Tongatapu is the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga and the location of its capital Nukuʻalofa. It is located in Tonga's southern island group, to which it gives its name, and is the country's most populous island, with approximately 71,260 residents (2006), 70.5% of the national population, on 260 square kilometres. Its maximum height is 65 metres. Tongatapu is Tonga's centre of government and the seat of its monarchy.

Tupou College is a Methodist boys' secondary boarding school in Toloa on the island of Tongatapu, Tonga. It is located on the Eastern District of Tongatapu near the village of Malapo. The school is owned by the Free Weslyan Church of Tonga. Established in 1866 by James Egan Moulton, it claims to be the oldest secondary school in the Pacific Islands. Enrolment is some 1,000 pupils. Tupou College was first established at Nuku'alofa at the location on which Queen Salote College stands today. From there it moved to Nafualu, Sia'atoutai on the site where Sia’atoutai Theological College now stands. In 1948, the school last moved to Toloa in the Eastern District of Tongatapu where it still stands today. Tupou College's Brother school is Newington College which is in Sydney, Australia.

Rugby union in Tonga

Rugby union is the national sport of Tonga. Tonga are considered to be a tier 2 rugby nation by the International Rugby Board.

Baron Vaea Tonga statesman

Siaosi Tuʻihala ʻAlipate Vaea Tupou, who was more commonly known as Baron Vaea, was a Prime Minister of Tonga. Vaea was a nephew of Queen Sālote, who ruled Tonga from 1918 until 1965, and a member of the Tongan nobility. His career in the Tongan government spanned 54 years.

Outline of Tonga Overview of and topical guide to Tonga

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Tonga:

Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tonga Church in Tonga

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tonga, is one of the smaller religious groups in the South Pacific island state of Tonga with over 3,599 members as of June 30, 2018, started by Seventh-day Adventist missionaries from the United States who visited in 1891 and settled in 1895. They set up schools but made very little progress in conversion, handicapped by dietary rules that prohibited popular local foods such as pork and shellfish, and that also banned tobacco, alcohol and kava.

A significant Chinese presence in Tonga is relatively recent. There were approximately three or four thousand Chinese people living in Tonga in 2001, thus comprising 3 or 4% of the total Tongan population. This figure includes Tongan citizens of Chinese ethnicity, and marks a sharp increase from the 1996 census, which recorded only 55 persons on Chinese ethnicity living in Tonga. Chinese in Tonga and Chinese Tongans are Tonga's main ethnic minority group, and have been subjected to significant levels of racism, including racist violence, in recent years.

Soviet Union–Tonga relations Diplomatic relations between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Kingdom of Tonga

Tonga and the Soviet Union established formal diplomatic relations in 1976. Tonga was the first Pacific Island country to establish relations with the USSR.

China–Tonga relations Diplomatic relations between the Peoples Republic of China and the Kingdom of Tonga

Tonga and China (PRC) established official diplomatic relations in 1998. The two countries maintain cordial diplomatic, economic and military relations.

Australia–Tonga relations Diplomatic relations between Australia and the Kingdom of Tonga

Australia–Tonga relations are foreign relations between Australia and Tonga. Tonga has a High Commission in Canberra, and Australia has a High Commission in Nukuʻalofa.

Rev. Dr. Tevita Hala Palefau is a Tongan politician and Cabinet Minister.

The Kingdom of Tonga has a number of historical monuments, linked to the chiefly dynasties which ruled over the islands for centuries.

Wedding of Crown Prince Tupoutoʻa ʻUlukalala and Sinaitakala Fakafanua

The wedding of Crown Prince Tupouto'a 'Ulukalala and Sinaitakala Fakafanua was held on 12 July 2012, at the Centennial Church in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga. Tongan Crown Prince Tupoutoʻa ʻUlukalala married Sinaitakala Fakafanua, his second cousin and 26th in line to the throne, during the ceremony.


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