WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The Australian Prime Minister said on Monday that a Chinese official’s tweet showing a fake picture of an Australian soldier looking to cut a child’s neck was “really disgusting” and deserves an apology.
China said there would be no apology.
The incident further strains tense relations between the two nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sought an apology from the Chinese government after Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, released the graphic image showing a grinning soldier holding a bloody knife in the throat of a veiled child who holding a lamb.
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Zhao wrote a caption with the tweet, saying: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners of 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 Australian elite troops had illegally killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan. It recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to federal police for investigation.
Asked about the issue at a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying blamed the Australian side.
“What Australia needs to do is reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, make a formal apology to the Afghan people and solemnly promise the international community that they will never commit such horrific crimes again,” Hua said.
Morrison said Zhao’s tweet was “completely outrageous” and a terrible nonsense against Australia’s military.
It’s really disgusting. It is 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. It diminishes them in the eyes of the world. ”
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Morrison said his government had contacted Twitter and asked it to take the position down. The post had a warning sign on it Monday afternoon but could still be seen. Zhao’s account comes with a Twitter tag indicating that it is a Chinese government account.
Despite China 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 tweeting a conspiracy theory that U.S. troops may have brought coronavirus to China. He is considered a leading representative of China’s high new tribe of assertive foreign relations.
Morrison acknowledged that there were tensions between China and Australia.
“But that’s not how you deal with them,” he said. “Australia has patiently sought to tackle the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature way in a responsible way, by seeking commitment at both the leadership and ministerial levels. “
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The gap between the two nations 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.