Harry Tong

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Dr. Harry Tong[1] (simplified Chinese: 汤哈利; traditional Chinese: 湯哈利; pinyin: tāng hā lì), is an I-Kiribati politician with Chinese heritage. He was born in Tabuaeran, Line Islands[citation needed] and is the second child of Chinese immigrant Tong Ting Hai and Nei Keke Randolph, of Abaiang and Maiana.[citation needed] Harry Tong attended Wanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand[citation needed], and then went on to complete his medical training at the Fiji School of Medicine.[citation needed]

He was first elected to the House of Assembly of Kiribati in 1983, representing the constituency of South Tarawa, the country's capital. He was re-elected in 1987, but resigned from Parliament in 1989, before the end of his term. He returned to Parliament in the 1998 election, and was re-elected in 2003 and in 2007, still representing South Tarawa.[2][3] Again, however, he resigned before the end of the latter term.[4]

He stood for President in the 1998 election, lost to the incumbent, Teburoro Tito,[5] and became Leader of the Opposition. He was not able to take part in the February 2003 Presidential Election, as his party selected Taberannang Timeon to stand in his place.[6] Tito was re-elected. Shortly thereafter, Tong questioned President Tito about the lease deal which enabled the People's Republic of China to maintain a satellite-tracking facility on Tarawa. (See: Sino-Pacific relations.) Tong emphasised that Chinese ambassador Ma Shuxue had admitted having donated €2,000 to a "cooperative society linked to Tito". The resulting controversy brought down the President's newly elected government through a vote of no confidence in Parliament.[7] Tong stood in the ensuing July 2003 Presidential Election, representing the Protect the Maneaba party, but came second to his younger brother Anote Tong, of the Pillars of Truth party.[5] The brothers received 43.5 and 47.4% of the vote respectively - 12,457 votes to 13,556.[8][9] The campaign was contentious, with Anote accusing Harry of "womanising".[10]

The 2007 Presidential election was controversial. Candidates for the presidency are selected by Parliament, and Harry Tong did not receive parliamentary nomination; nor did any member of the Protect the Maneaba party, despite it being the main opposition party.[11][12] Anote Tong was re-elected.[13]

Unlike his younger brother Anote, who as President has emphasised the need to adapt to climate change, and who has warned that Kiribati may disappear beneath the seas altogether, Harry Tong has stated that the ocean will never rise to a critical level in Kiribati, citing his religious beliefs: "God promised Noah there would not be another flood after the last one".[14]

As of June 2009, Tong was the leader of the National Progressive Party.[15] He was a "key Opposition MP" in the Ninth Parliament.[16] He was resigned from parliament in January 2010 to resume his medical career.


  1. ^ List of members of Parliament, Parliament of Kiribati
  2. ^ "Historical Information on Members of the Parliament of Kiribati", website of the Parliament of Kiribati
  3. ^ "Members of the Parliament of Kiribati", website of the Parliament of Kiribati
  4. ^ "Members of the Ninth Parliament (2007 - 2011)", Parliament of Kiribati
  5. ^ a b "Background Note: Kiribati", US Department of State, May 2009
  6. ^ "Harry Tong dumped as opposition and party leader". Radio New Zealand International. 7 January 2003. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Freedom in the World - Kiribati (2004)", UNHCR
  8. ^ "Freedom in the World - Kiribati (2004)", UNHCR
  9. ^ "Family saga sours in Pacific poll", BBC, 5 July 2003
  10. ^ "No rain on welcome parade for Kiribati President". Stuff.co.nz. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Nominations prompt call for Kiribati poll boycott", ABC Radio Australia, 21 September 2007
  12. ^ "Politics/ Kiribati: TONG LOOKS GOOD FOR ANOTHER TERM", Islands Business
  13. ^ "Tong re-elected Kiribati president", ABC Radio Australia, 18 October 2007
  14. ^ Nadkarni, Dev (25 October 2008). "An ailing island in the sun". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  15. ^ "Kiribati", CIA World Factbook
  16. ^ "Kiribati", New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs