The Australian Prime Minister has branded a tweet by a Chinese official showing a fake image of a soldier appearing to slit a child’s throat ‘truly repugnant’ and demanded an apology.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, posted the graphic image showing a smiling soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of a veiled child, who is holding a lamb.
It follows a report by Australia’s military earlier this month which found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 prisoners, farmers and civilians during the war in Afghanistan. The incident also comes amid growing tensions between the two nations.
On Monday, Mr Zhao wrote alongside the image: ‘Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.’
Mr Morrison said he wants the Chinese government to say sorry, and that the incident is further increasing tensions in a relationship that was already under strain.
He said: ‘(It) is truly repugnant. It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform.
‘The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.’
Mr Morrison said his government had asked Twitter to take the post down.
This is not Mr Zhao’s first diplomatic controversy, after being criticised by the US in March for tweeting a conspiracy theory that American soldiers may have brought the coronavirus to China.
He is considered a leading representative of China’s seeming attempt to be more assertive in its foreign relations.
Despite China blocking Twitter and other US social media platforms within the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have established a strong presence on the sites.
The rift between Australia and China has been growing this year after Mr Morrison’s government called for an independent inquiry into how coronavirus began, before China imposed tariffs on a number of the country’s exports.
The Australian PM acknowledged there were tensions between China and Australia.
‘But this is not how you deal with them,’ he continued.
‘Australia has patiently sought to seek to address the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature way, in a responsible way, by seeking engagement at both leader and ministerial level.’
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