Australia has called for China to apologize for posting a “repugnant” image propagandizing the country’s military role in Afghanistan. The image depicted an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child.
Posting on his verified Twitter account, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted the image in apparent mockery of the Australian troops. The tweet remains online.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the Beijing government should be “utterly ashamed” for the image at a media briefing, marking another hit to the relationship between the two countries.
“It is utterly outrageous and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever. The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” Morrison said.
When asked about China’s open mockery of Australia, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying fired back.
"It is the Australian government who should feel ashamed for their soldiers killing innocent Afghan civilians," said China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Australia is facing scrutiny from the press over the deaths of Taliban militants. Last Friday, the government told 13 special forces soldiers they face dismissal over a report on unlawful killings in Afghanistan.
The inquiry said it discovered credible information that junior soldiers were instructed by a patrol commander to shoot a prisoner for their first kill, in a ritual they called “blooding.” The alleged killings were said to be done outside of battle. Reuters reports that over a dozen current and former soldiers were referred for potential criminal prosecution.
Bilateral ties between China and Australia has strained following the COVID-19 pandemic as Australia supported a growing call for an international inquiry into China’s role in the outbreak. In response, Beijing imposed penalties on Australian businesses, including imposing steep anti-dumping duties on Australian wine imports and other foods.