From Matangi Tonga Magazine Vol. 14, no. 4, December 1999.
Story and photos by Pesi Fonua.
The meeting between HM King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV and Jiang Zemin, the President of the People’s Republic of China, at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, on October 7 was the highlight of the first State Visit to China by the King of Tonga. The King at 81 years old, is about 10 years older than Jiang Zemin, and they appeared to be very comfortable in the company of each other.
The warmth and consideration that was shown during the meeting of two leaders, of what must be one of the smallest and one of the largest countries on earth, guarantees a lasting bond between the two.
They were scheduled to meet before the State dinner, and President Jiang Zemin, standing with flowers in the foyer of the Northern Hall, and realising that His Majesty was in a wheel chair, was prepared to wait for a few minutes. The King had to make a long journey from one end to the other of the Great Hall of the People. After a state salute they proceeded to the Eastern Hall.
The meeting of the King of 100,000 and the President of 1.2 billion people was memorable because they decided that one thing China and Tonga have in common, is that their populations are their most valuable assets.
After President Jiang Zemin made his welcoming speech, there was silence as we waited for our King to reply. The saying that silence is golden was true on this occasion. The King sat assembling his hearing aid, and Aide De Camp Sione Petelo was on his knees under the king’s feet trying to retrieve a part of the ear phone which had rolled under the King’s armchair. Then, when His Majesty started to talk, he commanded total attention. The King told the President that Tonga and China had a lot in common. He said that both countries had signed “unequal treaties” in the past, and they both had supported the Western Allies during the two world wars.
At this stage the Press contingent was ushered from the room, before the King had finished his speech.
If Tongans have a lot in common with the Chinese, we have even more in common with the Mongolians. The Mongolians love to sing, to dance, to eat and, of course, to drink strong liquor.
The desire by the King to visit Genghis Khan’s Mausoleum in Inner Mongolia, captured a lot of attention, because it was the first time ever for a head of state or for a King to visit the Mausoleum and pay tribute to the feared Mongolian leader. After being flown by Chinese airforce jet to Baotou we had to make a three-hour drive each way to reach the Mausoleum.
In a farewell luncheon that was hosted by the Governor of Inner Mongolia at Baotou, he said that the King and Queen of Tonga would be friends of the Inner Mongolian Region forever. The friendship between the Mongolians and Tongans was further confirmed when Princess Pilolevu replied that Tongans believed that their ancestors came from Mongolia.
See related articles:
State Visit to the People's Republic of China by HM King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV and Queen Halaevalu Mata‘aho From Matangi Tonga Magazine Vol. 14, no. 4, December 1999.
China switch brings Tonga closer to UN dream From Matangi Tonga Magazine Vol. 14, no. 3, December 1998.