Warning: this article contains graphic content
China has refused to apologise for a controversial doctored tweet sent from an official government account, purporting to show an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a virtual press conference from The Lodge in Canberra, where he is completing 14 days of quarantine after an official visit to Japan, to strongly denounce the tweet.
The graphic post refers to a disturbing report by Australia’s military earlier this month which found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.
Morrison demanded an apology from China and called on Twitter to remove the post: “It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis,” Morrison said.
“The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”
The tweet, posted Monday by Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said China was “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers.”
Morrison said countries around the world were watching how Beijing responded to tensions in Australia’s relationship with China.
“It is a false image and terrible slur,’’ he added, labelling the image “truly repugnant” and “deeply offensive to every Australian”.
Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, with senior commandos reportedly forcing junior soldiers to kill defenseless captives in order to “blood” them for combat, a four year investigation recently found.
Australia said that 19 current and former soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution for the alleged killings, which occurred between 2005 and 2016 in 23 separate incidents.
However, responding to Morrison’s statements, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called on Australia to apologise to Afghan people.
“The Australian side reacted so strongly to my colleague’s personal tweet. Do they want to show that it is justified for some Australian soldiers to kill innocent civilians in cold blood, but it is unreasonable for someone to condemn the cold crime? Afghan lives are precious.”
“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,” the spokesperson said.
Morrison said it had contacted Twitter asking them to take the post down. The post had a warning tag on it Monday afternoon but was still able to be viewed. Zhao’s account comes with a Twitter label stating that it’s a Chinese government account.
Twitter did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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