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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 17:09 GMT
Tonga's king vows more democracy
Chinese evacuees
Chinese evacuees from Tonga were flown to Xiamen Airport
Tonga's king has appealed for calm and promised a more democratic government in a speech following last week's riots in which at least six people died.

King Tupou V was speaking at the close of Tonga's parliament on Thursday.

His comments came as around 200 Chinese nationals were flown out of the country on a plane chartered by Beijing.

Many Chinese businesses were looted during pro-democracy rioting which saw up to 80% of the capital's commercial district destroyed.

Many of those evacuated had sought refuge at the Chinese Embassy in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told the China Daily newspaper that some Chinese in Tonga were in a "difficult situation" and wanted to come home.

"A chartered aircraft has been arranged at their request," said Jiang Yu.

Democratic reforms

King Tupou V promised democratic reforms during a speech at a ceremony marking the closing of Tonga's parliament for the year.

The assembly was scheduled to close last week but rioting began after the government failed to pass democratic reforms before the recess.

Legislation has now been passed which means that, from 2008 onwards, the majority of positions in the country's government will be for elected representatives rather than hereditary noblemen or those directly appointed by the king.

Tonga map

As well as reaffirming his commitment to political reform, the king sought to reconcile the Tongan people.

"We have to rebuild our sense of mutual responsibility to each other, so that never again will we see violence, arson, looting, death - and such shame," he said.

Tonga has been peaceful since last week's riots, with around 150 soldiers and police from New Zealand and Australia helping to keep order.

New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff told the Associated Press news agency that his country's troops would leave Tonga "relatively soon".

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