Relations between China and Australia have fallen to a new low following a controversial social media post by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
On Monday, Zhao tweeted a doctored image that portrayed an Australian soldier with a knife next to a child carrying a lamb. Zhao wrote: “Shocked by [the] murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.”
We’ve decided not to include the photo in this story.
The image is reportedly in reference to allegations that Australian soldiers used knives to kill two 14-year-old Afghan boys. In a recently released Afghanistan inquiry report by the inspector-general of the Australian Defense Force (ADF), there are multiple allegations of unlawful killings by Australian soldiers.
According to BBC, the report findings have been widely condemned and there is a police investigation currently underway.
The Australian government has called the illustration “repugnant,” and demanded an apology from the Chinese government.
During a press conference on Monday, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson of the foreign ministry, said the Australian government “should conduct honest and deep reflections and hold the perpetrators accountable. It owes the Afghan people a formal apology and a solemn promise that it will never ever commit these horrible crimes again,” said Hua.
Australia requested that Zhao’s post be taken down by Twitter, and referred to it as “disinformation.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the rising tensions between the two countries but said: “This is not how you deal with it,” as cited by BBC.
China-Australia tensions have taken a serious blow this year. Australia was vocal in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and led calls for investigations into the origins of the virus. China recently imposed tariffs on key Australian imports such as wine and beef.
[Cover image via @Li Jianzhao赵立坚/Twitter]