Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Chinese government should apologise for sharing a “deplorable” and “terribly offensive” fake photo on social media.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman with China’s foreign ministry, released a graphic fake image of an Australian soldier slitting a child’s throat.
“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers,” he posted to Twitter on Monday.
“We strongly condemn such acts and call for holding them accountable.”
The post apparently relates to the Brereton Report into alleged war crimes committed by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan, which was released earlier this month.
Mr Morrison also called on Twitter to take down the image.
“It is an outrageous and disgusting slur and in the interests of decency they should take it down,” he said.
‘The Chinese Government should be totally ashamed of this post’
“Australia’s transparent and honest way of dealing with this issue is a credit to this nation and a credit to those who wear the uniform.
“Few countries around the world would have dealt with this in the way that we have, you don’t engage in disinformation and the ugliness seen on the Chinese government post.”
Both Russia and China have been targeting Australia after the release of the Afghan war crimes report.
Russia has recently said allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan had weakened Australia’s international standing.
Moscow’s foreign ministry spokeswoman also claimed Australian soldiers accused of murdering civilians and torturing prisoners would not be held accountable.
Maria Zakharova said the allegations called into question Australia’s commitment to protecting the rules-based world order.
A report released by Australian Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell earlier this month found special forces committed at least 39 unlawful killings during the Afghanistan war and treated two prisoners with cruelty.
Relations between China and Australia have soured in recent months, with China slapping import tariffs on Australian agricultural products such as barley and wine.
The heightened tensions come following Australia’s call for an independent international investigation into the origins and spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Morrison said despite the image being shared by Beijing, he still was hoping for a “reset” in relations.
“I would hope this rather awful event will lead to the kind of reset where this type of dialogue can be restarted. But this type of behaviour is not on,” he said.
“Today is not a day for Australia to feeling wrongly about how we conduct ourselves, even with this difficult information to deal with, the only thing wrong is the tweet,” he added.
Labor’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, Senator Penny Wong also condemned the tweet in the senate.
“It is gratuitous, inflammatory and it is deeply offensive. This is not the behaviour of a responsible, mature international power,” she said.
“These tactics will be met with unified condemnation in the Australian community. And they will be judged harshly by the international community,”.