According to Xinhua News Agency, Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Martin Lee Chu-ming’s visit to the United States last month to garner support for democracy in Hong Kong “displayed in full their grotesque demeanours, as they wagged their tails to beg for sympathy, and bent their knees with slavish mien”.

When foreign politicians threw them a few inconsequential words, both “danced with delight as though they had found priceless treasure”. The report went on to question why, when the city was a colony, Chan, the colonial secretary, and Lee, then a legislator, hadn’t fought for Hong Kong’s democracy and sought international support to put pressure on Britain.

Such written attacks on adversaries, in which fact, fiction and cattiness come together in the most lurid prose, were often used in China’s past by both princes and rebels to justify their cause.

One of the most famous textual assaults was written by poet Luo Binwang (AD640-684), on behalf of rebel forces, against dowager Empress Wu, mother of two deposed emperors and widow of two dead ones, whose desire to be a monarch in her own right was becoming glaringly obvious. After a waspish report of her depravity and cruelty, Luo went on to release an emotional appeal to those loyal to the imperial clan. Wu was amused when she read it, but later expressed regret that a talented writer such as Luo wasn’t in her service.