WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday that a Chinese official’s tweet “really repulsive” shows a false image of an Australian soldier who appears to cut off a child’s throat.
Morrison said he apologizes to the Chinese government. The incident further increases tensions between the two nations in an already tense relationship.
The graphic image was released on Monday by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. It shows a grinning soldier holding a bloody knife in the throat of a veiled child holding a lamb.
Zhao wrote a caption with the tweet: “I was shocked by the murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts and call for their accountability. ”
Zhao referred to a worrying report from the Australian army earlier this month that found evidence that Australian elite troops had illegally killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan.
The report recommended that 19 soldiers be deployed to the federal police for criminal investigation.
Morrison said the tweet was “completely outrageous” and a terrible slander against the Australian army.
It’s “really repulsive. It is deeply offensive to all Australians, to all Australians who have served in this uniform, ”he told reporters in Canberra. “The Chinese government should be completely ashamed of this post. It reduces them in the eyes of the world. “
Morrison said he contacted Twitter and asked them to take the post off. The post had a warning label on Monday afternoon, but it was still viewable. Zhao’s account comes with a Twitter tag that says it’s a Chinese government account.
Despite China blocking Twitter and other U.S. social media platforms in the county, Chinese diplomats and state media have developed a strong presence on them.
The United States criticized Zhao in March after tweeting about a conspiracy theory that U.S. soldiers could bring the corona virus to China. China is seen as the leading representative of a high-level new tribe of assertive foreign relations.
Morrison acknowledged there are tensions between China and Australia.
“But that’s not how you deal with them,” he said. “Australia has patiently sought to resolve tensions in our relationship in a mature, responsible manner by seeking commitment at both the leadership and ministerial levels.”
The rift between the two nations has widened this year after the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus epidemic. China has since imposed duties on a number of Australian exports.