WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – The Australian Prime Minister said on Monday that a Chinese official’s tweet showing a fake image of an Australian soldier appearing to slit a child’s throat was “really disgusting” and deserved an apology.
China said there would be no excuses.
The incident further exacerbates already strained relations between the two nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was seeking an apology from the Chinese government after Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, released the graphic image showing a smiling soldier holding a bloody knife to his throat. ‘a veiled child, who holds a lamb.
Zhao wrote a caption with the tweet saying, “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. ”
He was referring to a disturbing report by the Australian military earlier this month, which found evidence that Australia’s elite troops 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 criminal investigation.
Asked about the matter during a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying blamed the Australian side.
“What Australia should do is think deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, issue a formal apology to the Afghan people and make a solemn pledge to the international community never to commit such terrible crimes again,” Hua said. .
Morrison said Zhao’s tweet was “completely outrageous” and a terrible insult to the Australian military.
It’s “really disgusting. It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in this uniform, ”he told reporters in Canberra. “The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. He diminishes them in the eyes of the world. ”
Morrison said his government contacted Twitter to ask him to delete the post. The message had a Monday afternoon warning label but could still be viewed. Zhao’s account comes with a Twitter tag indicating that it is a Chinese government account.
Although China is blocking Twitter and other U.S. social media platforms in the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have established a strong presence on them.
Zhao was criticized by the United States in March after he tweeted a conspiracy theory that American soldiers may have brought the coronavirus to China. He is considered one of the main representatives of China’s sharp new trend in assertive foreign relations.
Morrison acknowledged that there were tensions between China and Australia.
“But that’s not how you manage them,” he said. “Australia has patiently sought to resolve the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature, responsible manner, seeking commitment at both leadership and ministerial levels.
The rift between the two countries has widened since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China has since imposed tariffs and other restrictions on a number of Australian exports.