The image, of a smiling Australian soldier holding a bloodstained knife to the throat of an Afghan child, was posted on Monday on the verified account of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Morrison said the Australian government was demanding an apology from China and had asked Twitter to delete the tweet, which was pinned to the top of Zhao’s thread.
“This is absolutely outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis,” Morrison said. “The Chinese government should be completely ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the eyes of the world. ”
Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated sharply in recent months.
China has introduced a series of economic sanctions on Australian products, and state-controlled news organizations have repeatedly attacked Australia over a range of issues.
The ill will appears to have been driven by Canberra’s decision to push back Beijing’s growing power in the region and to call for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Morrison said countries around the world are watching how Beijing responds to tensions in Australia’s relationship with China.
Australia told 13 special forces soldiers last week that they were at risk of dismissal following an independent report on suspected unlawful killings in Afghanistan, the country’s military chief said on Friday.
On Monday, Zhao posted the photo to Twitter with the caption: “Shocked by the killing of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn these acts and call for them to be held accountable. ”
In three hours, it generated over 2,100 interactions and was retweeted over 1,400 times.
Zhao’s Twitter account posted the same message on Friday, but without the false image.
This article is the latest example of the Chinese government’s more aggressive communications with foreign countries, which analysts have called “wolf warrior” diplomacy.
Morrison said Australia has a “transparent and honest” process in place to investigate the allegations against the accused soldiers and that “this is what a free, democratic and liberal country does.”
Australia had “patiently sought” to resolve tensions in relations with China and wanted a direct discussion between ministers, he said.