Relations between Beijing and Canberra appear to have hit a new low, and China’s state-owned newspaper is doing little to mend the fractured relationship.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison today slammed a “truly repugnant, deeply offensive” propaganda image shared by a senior Chinese official on Twitter, demanding it be removed.
Mr Morrison said Australia is “seeking an apology from the ministry of foreign affairs, from the Chinese government, for this outrageous post”.
However The Global Times’ editor-in-chief Hu Xijin labelled the Prime Minister’s demand “ridiculous and shameless”.
“It is a popular cartoon that condemns the Australian Special Forces’ brutal murder of 39 Afghan civilians,” he shared on Twitter.
“On what ground does Morrison feel angry over the use of this cartoon by the spokesperson of Chinese FM?
“It’s ridiculous and shameless that he demanded China to apologise.”
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman with China’s foreign ministry, sparked the controversy on Monday after he shared a doctored image of alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan, purporting to show a special forces soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.
The image also held the words: “Don’t be afraid we are coming to bring you peace.”
“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers,” he tweeted. “We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable.”
It sparked an instant response from Mr Morrison, who said the Chinese Government should be “totally ashamed”.
“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 contacted Twitter.”
Twitter added a content warning to the post as Australia lodged an official complaint with China. As of 5pm, the tweet was still available and pinned to the top of Mr Zhao’s Twitter page.
It had attracted close to 6000 comments and more than 4400 retweets.