Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives during Question Time at the Houses of Parliament on February 14, 2019 in Canberra, Australia.
Tracey Nearmy | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has requested an apology from the Chinese government after a senior official posted a doctoral picture of an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child’s throat.
“Australia apologizes to the State Department and the Chinese government for this outrageous contribution. We are also seeking immediate removal and have also reached out to Twitter to remove it immediately.” Morrison told reporters.
Lijian Zhao, a spokesman and deputy director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, previously tweeted the doctoral picture with the caption, “Shocked by the murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts and urge them to be held accountable.”
The picture showed an Australian soldier smiling and sitting on an Australian flag that was obscured by the Afghan flag.
Morrison described the tweet as a “disgusting post” and said it was “deeply offensive” to any Australian, including past and current members of the Australian Defense Forces.
“It is absolutely outrageous and cannot be justified in any way. The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes it in the eyes of the world,” said Morrison.
Twitter hasn’t removed the tweet yet. The social media platform did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment, asking if it was planned.
Zhao’s tweet referred to a report earlier this month by a four year investigation by the inspector general of the Australian armed forces. The report found that Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan. The investigation period included incidents that allegedly occurred between 2005 and 2016.
The investigation found credible information that junior soldiers were being ordered by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in order to obtain the soldier’s first kill – a practice known as “bleeding”. All of these unlawful murders are believed to have been committed outside the “heat of battle”.
Australia said 19 current and former soldiers will be referred for possible criminal prosecution, Reuters reported.
The bilateral relationship between China and Australia has deteriorated in recent months. Earlier this year, Australia backed a growing demand for an international investigation into China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Beijing has taken action against Australian exporters, including imposing tough anti-dumping duties on Australian wine exports to China.
Morrison said that while tensions undoubtedly exist between the two countries, they should be addressed in a mature and responsible manner, through engagement at the executive and ministerial levels.