Australia is demanding Beijing apologise for posting a fake picture on a government Twitter account showing an Australian soldier with a bloody knife murdering an Afghan child holding a lamb.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing should be “utterly ashamed” for sharing the “repugnant” image.
The image was referencing war crimes allegedly committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, an Australian Defence Force (ADF) investigation found that 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013.
The inquiry found “credible evidence” of unlawful killings and a “warrior culture” within elite units such as the SAS. The allegations included that junior soldiers were encouraged to shoot prisoners for their first kill.
The findings sparked widespread revulsion within Australia and are now being investigated by police.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted the photoshopped image and tweeted, “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts and call for holding them accountable.”
Australia has asked Twitter to remove the post, describing it as “disinformation”.
This is a new low in an already very tense and rapidly deteriorating relationship between the two key trading partners.
Last week Zhao said the war crimes report “fully exposed the hypocrisy of the human rights and freedom these Western countries are always chanting”.
His tweet shocked Morrison into his most undiplomatic language yet. The prime minister said the Chinese government should be “ashamed” of the post and described it as an “outrageous and disgusting slur”.