Australia-China relations hit new low over fake Afghanistan photo
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for social media platform Twitter to take down a doctored picture of an Australian soldier purportedly slitting the throat of an Afghan child.
The photo was posted on Sunday by a senior #Chinese_official and has since sparked an international incident while the official, Lijian Zhao, has since pinned the inflammatory post to the top of his official Twitter account.
Retaliating to Morrison’s request, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday #Australia should be ashamed of its war crimes in Afghanistan.
Beijing’s The Morning Star reported Tuesday that China has asked Australia to apologize to the Afghan people for the alleged war crimes their troops committed.
According to The Morning Star, Beijing also scorned Australia’s demand for an apology for the image posted by Lijian Zhao, who is one of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesmen.
“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts and call for holding them accountable,” Lijian Zhao wrote above the picture that has since sparked an international incident.
He was commenting on an Australian war crimes report, which found Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.
On the other hand, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Australia should “reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice … and solemnly promise they will never commit such crimes again.”
Lijian Zhao has meanwhile been slinging insults at Australia all year and has in the process been making a name for himself.
Until recently, Zhao was a diplomat in the US and Pakistan and according to the UK’s Daily Mail has become known for his bombastic attitude, which won him a promotion to deputy director of Beijing’s ‘Information Department’.
For the past few months he has specifically focused on Australia, especially as relations between the two countries are at an all time low.
The Daily Mail reports that Zhao has slammed Australia in recent months for allegedly spreading misinformation and accused its leaders of being ‘hysterical’ about Chinese spying.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came to Australia’s defense and chided #Beijing for the post.
Calling the tweet “unfactual,” Ardern told reporters on Tuesday that her administration had contacted Beijing “directly” to raise objections over the controversial image, shared on Sunday by Zhao Lijan.
“There is an exchange that’s happening between Australia and China, it will of course tap into spaces where, as a general principle, we may have concerns and will raise those,” the PM said.
In this case, an image has been used that is not factually correct, that is not a genuine image. So we have raised that directly with Chinese authorities, she said.