It is unspeakably tragic when children are murdered by parents who then commit suicide. Such cases have been all too prevalent in Hong Kong: in the past month, at least two have been reported.

Experts say parents who kill their children before taking their own lives may be compelled by a misguided concern for their children’s wellbeing. According to their warped reasoning, their children would suffer as orphans. So, it’s preferable for them to “go to a better place” with their parents, where they will be looked after.

When the rebels led by Li Zicheng stormed Beijing in 1644, the Chongzhen emperor of the Ming dynasty knew there was no point in fighting. After hiding his sons with relatives, in the hope that they would be able to flee the besieged capital, the 33-year-old emperor proceeded to kill his womenfolk. He forced his wife, Empress Zhou, to kill herself, before attacking with his sword the imperial consort Yuan, 15-year-old Princess Kunxing and six-year-old Princess Zhaoren. The emperor then hanged himself from a tree on the hill behind the palace.

Kunxing, however, survived; her father had cut off her left arm and left her for dead. She was treated with courtesy by the succeeding Qing dynasty but died two years later, when she was with child. The Qing court conferred on her the posthumous title of Princess Changping.