Australia demands China apologise for ‘repugnant, outrageous’ doctored image of soldier murdering child

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has demanded an apology from China over a “falsified image” shared by an official Chinese government Twitter handle showing an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

“It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform, every Australian who serves in that uniform today,” Mr Morrison told a news conference. 

“Everyone who has pulled on a uniform and served with Australians overseas from whatever nation, that they have done that. It is utterly outrageous and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever … The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” he said.  

Earlier on Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian shared the image which portrayed an Australian soldier with a bloody knife standing over a child, with a large stylised Australian national flag in the background. The child is seen holding a lamb. The picture was subtitled: “Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace.” 

Alongside it, Mr Zhao wrote: “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, &call for holding them accountable [sic].”

The latest war of words comes amid a backdrop of heightened tensions between the two countries, since Australia led demands for an international inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic in China.

Mr Zhao’s remarks were a reference to last week’s release of a damning defence inquiry report that found “credible evidence” of unlawful killings of 39 people by 25 members of the Australian special forces operating in Afghanistan.

The photo appears to be a reference to rumours that members of the Special Air Service cut the throats of two 14-year-old Afghan boys who they suspected were Taliban sympathisers.

But those hearsay accounts were never substantiated during the four-year-long Brereton inquiry, reported ABC News.

The Australian prime minister said he was seeking the removal of the “truly repugnant” image from Twitter, though at the time of publication it could still be viewed on Mr Zhao’s official profile.

Additional reporting by agencies

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