Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday demanded an apology after a senior Chinese official posted a fake image of a grinning Aussie soldier appearing to hold a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
Morrison called the image, which was posted on a government Twitter account, “truly repugnant” and demanded that it be taken down – but Beijing said there would be no apology.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, posted the graphic image of the veiled child, who is seen holding a lamb.
“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable,” Zhao wrote in a caption.
He was referring to a shocking report by Australian defense force chief Gen. Angus Campbell that elite troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan.
The war crime report recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to federal police for criminal investigation.
Asked about the matter at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying cast blame on Australia.
“What Australia should do is to reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, make a formal apology to the Afghan people, and solemnly promise to the international community that they will never commit such terrible crimes again,” Hua said.
Morrison called Zhao’s tweet “utterly outrageous” and a terrible slur against the Australian armed forces.
“It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform,” he said at a news conference in Canberra.
“The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” Morrison said, adding that his government had asked Twitter to take the post down.
The post had a warning tag on it but could still be viewed Monday.
Australia’s relationship with China has deteriorated since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
With Post wires