Just when it seemed like the controversy over Hong Kong’s decolonisation had died down, along came Hongkong Post’s proposal to cover up the British royal insignia on letter boxes.

The attempts of new rulers to erase symbols of a former regime can border on the obsessive, as evidenced in a famous case in the early Qing dynasty.

Zhuang Tinglong, a merchant in Zhejiang province, bought a manuscript covering the history of the preceding Ming dynasty and engaged a group of scholars to edit the text for publication. He died before the work was finished but his father, Zhuang Yuncheng, eventually published it in 1660 as An Edited and Concise History of Ming.

The book, however, contained several details that were considered seditious by a fledgling dynasty of foreign origin that was trying to stamp its authority on a recently conquered populace.

In the work, Qing soldiers were called “barbarians”, Ming generals who surrendered to the Qing were described as “traitors” and Ming-era titles and names had not been edited out in favour of the official Qing dynasty ones. For example, the year 1650 was rendered as the fourth year of Yongli (the Ming pretender) instead of the seventh year of Shunzhi (the reigning Qing emperor).

The crackdown in 1661 was swift and merciless. More than 70 people died during the purge, including the elder Zhuang, and his son’s body was exhumed and desecrated.