SYDNEY: Australia’s prime minister angrily denounced a “repugnant”, “outrageous” and “appalling” tweet from a top Chinese government spokesman on Monday and demanded Beijing formally apologise.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian sparked the outrage when he posted a staged image of a man dressed as an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to an Afghan child’s throat.
Australian prosecutors are currently investigating 19 members of the country’s military in connection with alleged war crimes committed by special forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
Morrison called the tweet — from an official Chinese government account — an “outrageous and disgusting slur” against the Australian armed forces and called on Twitter to take it down.
“It is utterly outrageous and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever. The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post,” Morrison said of the tweet. “It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”
Asked about the tweet at a regular press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying replied: “With Australian soldiers committing such atrocious crimes, shouldn’t the Australian government feel ashamed?”
She said Australia should “make a formal apology to the Afghan people”, adding that “it is a fact that Australian soldiers brutally slaughtered innocent civilians in Afghanistan”.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier in November that Morrison had called him personally to express his “deepest sorrow” over the allegations.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020