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Lijian Zhao, deputy director general at the Chinese foreign ministry, tweeted an edited image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of a child. The caption read: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was seeking an apology from the Chinese Government.
During a press conference, he said: “Australia is seeking an apology from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from the Chinese Government, for this outrageous post.
“We are also seeking its removal immediately and have also contacted Twitter to take it down immediately.”
Mr Zhao’s doctored picture showed an Australian soldier smiling while sitting on an Australian flag over Afghanistan’s flag.
Underneath the Australian flag there appears to be lying bodies in the edited picture.
Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Morrison said the tweet was a “repugnant post”.
He added how it was “deeply offensive” to every Australian, including current and past members of the Australian Defence Force.
He said: “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.”
Mr Zhao has pinned the tweet to the top of his social media account and is yet to remove the post.
Prime Minister Morrison said Australia has contacted Twitter to remove the post “immediately”.
He added that the image is “false” and “a terrible slur on our great defence forces and the men and women who’ve served in that uniform for over a 100 years”.
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Mr Zhao’s tweet and picture were referencing a report published earlier in November about an investigation into the Australian Defence Force.
The four-year investigation found that the Australian military reportedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan.
The report covered incidents which allegedly happened between 2005 to 2016.
Australia said 19 former and current military soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution.
Tensions between China and Australia have mounted in recent months.
Earlier this year, Australia supported demands for an international inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
China has also taken measures against Australia including anti-dumping duties on Australian wine exports.
Mr Morrison admitted that “there are undoubtedly tensions that exist between China and Australia”.
He added: “But this is not how you deal with them. Australia has patiently sought to seek to address the tensions that exist in our relationship in a mature way.”
Despite the Twitter post, Mr Morrison asked China to re-engage in dialogue to ease tensions.
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