The hostile relationship between China and Australia worsened this week after the Australian government demanded an apology from Beijing.
It came after a report last month about alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan, when the Australian Defence Force said it had found “credible information” that 25 Australian soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013.
China on Monday joined in the widespread condemnation of the findings – then matters escalated when foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao tweeted a fake graphic image of an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.
According to Reuters, this triggered a furious reaction in Canberra and the Australia government has demanded an apology for the Chinese official tweeting the “truly repugnant” fake image, and demanded it be taken down.
Zhao’s tweet containing the false image can be found here (reader discretion advised).
“It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quoted by Reuters as saying. “The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”
New Zealand also called on China to take action on the fake image.
“It was an unfactual post, and of course that would concern us,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, who added that New Zealand had directly raised its concerns with Chinese authorities.
“So that is something we have raised directly in the manner that New Zealand does when we have such concerns,” she told reporters in parliament in the capital Wellington.
But China has refused to apologise for its official tweeting a fake image.
“It is the Australian government who should feel ashamed for their soldiers killing innocent Afghan civilians,” said Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, when asked about Morrison’s comments.
Then things quickly deteriorated even further when Australia this year called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, Beijing reportedly outlined a list of grievances about Australia’s foreign investment, national security and human rights policy, saying Canberra needed to correct its actions to restore the bilateral relationship with its largest trading partner.
China also recently announced it will impose temporary anti-dumping tariffs of up to 212.1 percent on wine imported from Australia.
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