Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had tweeted an image of an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a baby after revelations about Australian war crimes in Afghanistan.
A war of words continues to rage between Australia and China after a senior foreign ministry official in Beijing shared an image depicting the slaughter of an Afghan child by an Australian child.
The staged photo posted on Twitter by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao shows an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child draped in the Australian flag while clutching a lamb with the caption: “Don’t be afraid. We are coming to bring you peace”.
Lijian accompanied the photo with a short tweet, which read: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.”
The comments were a reference to a recent investigation, which revealed that Australian soldiers had murdered dozens of Afghans, including allegations of child killings.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the post saying that the Chinese government should be “totally ashamed” of the post.
“Australia is seeking an apology from the ministry of foreign affairs, from the Chinese government for this outrageous post,” the Australian leader said, confirming that officials in Canberra had contacted Twitter asking for the post to be removed.
“It is a false image and a terrible slur on our great defence forces and the men and women who served in that uniform for over a hundred years,” Morrison added in the televised statement on Monday, just a day before further revelations about the conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan were published.
On Tuesday, the Guardian published an image of an Australian soldier drinking beer out of a prosthetic leg belonging to a dead Taliban fighter. Further images showed soldiers posing with the prosthetic.
There is no sign that China is willing to budge on the issue with Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying pointing to the recent inquiry into the murders of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers.
“The Australian side has been reacting so strongly to my colleague's tweet. Why is that? Do they think that their merciless killing of Afghan civilians is justified but the condemnation of such ruthless brutality is not? Afghan lives matter!” the spokesperson said in a press briefing.
“It owes the Afghan people a formal apology and a solemn promise that it will never ever commit these horrible crimes again.” She added.
A recent history of discord
While few on social media, but the extreme far-right, sought to ignore Australia’s record of atrocities, many criticised China for its own record on human rights.
In one such example, British politician Lord David Alton suggested China’s attacks on Australia stemmed from the latter’s criticism of Beijing over the treatment of Uighurs.
In October, Australia joined 38 countries at the UN Human Rights Council that condemned China over its treatment of Uighurs, accusing the country of “gross human rights violations” including targeting symbols of their Muslim faith and the imprisonment of more than a million people in ‘political re-education’ camps.
Relations between China and Australia previously soured after Morrison said he wanted an global inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus, which first appeared in Wuhan, China in November 2019 and has since turned into a global pandemic, killing close to 1.5 million people and bringing the global economy to a standstill. Beijing responded by slapping tariffs on some imports from Australia.
Australia was also the first nation to stop Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from working on developing its 5G network and is planning to introduce new legislation to counter apparent Chinese espionage.
China has accused the Australians of “poisoning” bilateral relations and has warned: "China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy."