WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – New Zealand has joined Australia, condemning the graphic tweet of a Chinese official showing a fake image of a grinning Australian soldier holding a bloody knife down a child’s throat.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that she had expressed New Zealand’s concerns directly with the Chinese authorities.
– This is a picture that was not factual. It wasn’t right. So, in line with our position in principle, when we use such images, we will raise these concerns and do so directly, ”Ardern told reporters.
China has not backed down the tweet and said there will be no apology.
Ardern’s criticism was more silent than Australia’s. He faced an embarrassing choice about how far he could get involved in a conflict between New Zealand’s closest ally, Australia, and its largest trading partner, China.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday called the image “repulsive” and demanded an apology from the Chinese government. The purpose of the post was the alleged abuse of Australian soldiers during the conflict in Afghanistan.
The case further worsens the already strained relations between Australia and China.
The picture, which showed the soldier cutting off the child’s throat, was published by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He wrote a caption with his tweet: “Shocked by the killing of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts and call for their accountability. ”
He referred to a disturbing report by the Australian army earlier this month that found evidence that Australian elite troops had illegally killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the Afghan conflict. The report recommended that 19 soldiers be deployed to the federal police for criminal investigation.
Asked at the daily briefing, Hua Chunying, a Foreign Office spokesman, blamed the Australian side.
“Australia needs to do something to think deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, apologize 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 “utterly 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 his government contacted Twitter and asked him to cancel the post. The post had a warning label on Tuesday, but 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 address the tensions in our relationship in a mature, responsible manner by seeking commitment at both the leadership and ministerial levels.”
The gap between the two nations has widened since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus epidemic. China has since imposed tariffs and other restrictions on a number of Australian exports.