Queen Elizabeth II’s memorable moments in Asia during her 70-year reign

The queen, who died at age 96, was one of the most-traveled and widely respected global figures, including in Asia.
By Nawar Nemeh for RFA
2022.09.08
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) ahead of a private lunch at Buckingham Palace in London, May 5, 2017. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II hosts a state banquet for Chinese President Xi Jinping at Buckingham Palace in London, Oct. 20, 2015. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Chinese President Hu Jintao oversee the opening of an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Nov. 9, 2005. Credit: AFP

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reviews an honor guard after being greeted by Chinese President Li Xiannian in Beijing, Oct. 13, 1986. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II inspects an honor guard during a visit to Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 1986. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II (First row, 6th from L) sits for a photo with fellow world leaders at Buckingham Palace ahead of the G20 summit in London, April 1, 2009. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh (L), are welcomed by President of Singapore Wee Kim Wee (L) upon their arrival in Singapore, Oct. 9, 1989. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II (L), the head of the Church of England, tours the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque with the mosque's architect Baharuddin Abu Kassim in Shah Alam, Malaysia, Oct. 14, 1989. Credit: AFP

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Queen Elizabeth II sits with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a state banquet at the Grand Palace in Bangkok to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bhumibol’s accession to the throne, Oct. 28, 1996. Credit: Reuters

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Queen Elizabeth II greets Indonesian Vice President Bacharuddin Habibie at Buckingham Palace in London, April 3, 1998. Credit: AFP

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) receives a bouquet of flowers from six-year-old Swechya Joshi the daughter of a serving Gurkha at the conclusion of the Gurkha 200 pageant on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London on June 9, 2015. Credit: AFP

UPDATED at 5:47 p.m. on 9-8-2022

During her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II presided over the sunset of the British Empire and declining British influence, but she also commanded deep respect.  The record of her meetings with Asian leaders reads like a who’s who of the region's modern history since World War II. Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Indonesia's Suharto, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew and China's Xi Jinping are just a few of the national leaders she visited in Asia or hosted at Buckingham Palace.

As British monarch, Queen Elizabeth served as head of the Commonwealth of former British colonies. She visited many of those countries multiple times. The Asian members she visited included Bangladesh in 1983; Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, which she first visited in 1972; India and Pakistan, which she first visited in 1961; the Maldives in 1972; and Sri Lanka in 1954, just two years after she ascended the throne on the death of her father, George VI.

She also frequently traveled to far-flung Pacific island nations that are in the Commonwealth, such as Fiji, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Samoa. Additionally, she was hosted in Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, and South Korea.

Her 1986 six-day trip to China was the first-ever by a British monarch to the country, where she visited the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Great Wall, and reaffirmed the British commitment to return Hong Kong to Chinese rule. That commitment was fulfilled in July 1997, an act widely seen as heralding the end of the British Empire. 

Queen Elizabeth’s last visit to Asia was in 2006, where she was hosted by President S.R. Nathan in Singapore as head of the British Commonwealth.  

Her reign straddled the tenure of 15 British prime ministers. The first was Winston Churchill, Britain’s leader during World War II. Her last was Liz Truss, who took office on Tuesday after meeting the queen, just two days before the monarch died.

For the vast majority of Britons, Queen Elizabeth was the only monarch they had known in their lifetime. For citizens around the world, her image is often associated with the rapid decolonization of Britain’s global imperial holdings, but she maintained strong ties with the peoples and leaders of those countries even after their independence.

Elizabeth assumed the throne at age 25. She died on Thursday at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle, a royal estate in Scotland, surrounded by her children. She will be succeeded by her eldest son, the 73-year-old Charles, Prince of Wales.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Liz Truss as Britain's head of state. She is the leader of the government.

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