Wellington, New Zealand – The Australian prime minister said on Monday that a tweet from a Chinese official showing a fake image of an Australian soldier looking like he was cutting a child’s throat was “really disgusting” and deserved an apology.
China has said there will be no apology.
The incident further aggravates the already tense relations between the two nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was apologizing to the Chinese government after Zhao Lijiang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, published a graphic showing a grinning soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of a veiled child holding a lamb.
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Zhao tweeted: “Shocked by the killing of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such actions and call for them to be held accountable. “
He cited a disturbing report by the Australian military earlier this month that found evidence that elite Australian troops had illegally killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan. He recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to the federal police for investigation.
Asked about the daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chuning blamed the Australian side.
“What Australia needs to do is think deeply, hand over the perpetrators to justice, formally apologize to the Afghan people and solemnly promise the international community that it will never commit such heinous crimes again,” Hua said.
Morrison said Zhao’s tweet was “extremely outrageous” and a terrible slander against the Australian military.
“It’s really disgusting. “It’s deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform,” he told reporters in Canberra. “The Chinese government should be completely ashamed of this post. This reduces them in the eyes of the world. “
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Morrison said his government had contacted Twitter with a request to remove the post. The post had a warning label on it until Monday afternoon, but could still be seen. Zhao’s account comes with a Twitter tag stating that it is a Chinese government account.
Although China has blocked Twitter and other US social media platforms in the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have established a strong presence on them.
In March, Zhao was criticized by the United States for spreading a conspiracy theory that American soldiers may have brought the coronavirus to China. He is considered to be China’s leading representative of high tensions in strong foreign relations.
Morrison acknowledged that there are tensions between China and Australia.
“But that’s not the way you deal with them,” he said. “Australia is patiently striving to address the tensions that exist in our relationship, in a mature way, in a responsible way, seeking commitment at both the leadership and ministerial levels.”
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The rift between the two nations has widened since the Australian government called for an independent study of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, China has imposed tariffs and other restrictions on a number of Australian exports.