Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has demanded an apology from China after a Foreign Ministry spokesperson tweeted what he called a “truly repugnant,” fake image depicting an Australian soldier murdering an Afghan child.
The digitally-altered image posted by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, on Monday shows the soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child with its head wrapped in an Australian flag.
“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers,” Zhao tweeted alongside the image.
“We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable.”
The comments relate to the release earlier this month of a damning report into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan from 2005 – 2016.
A four-year inquiry into the allegations found that there is “credible information” to substantiate claims that Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 prisoners and civilians.
“The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.
“Australia is seeking an apology from the ministry of foreign affairs, from the Chinese government for this outrageous tweet.”
He described the image as being “deeply offensive to every Australian,” and said he has reached out to Twitter and Chinese authorities for its immediate removal.
“There are undoubtedly tensions that exist between China and Australia, but this is not how you deal with them,” Morrison added.
Australia has vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into the “disturbing conduct” alleged in the report.
Last week Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed concern over whether Australia will hold its soldiers accountable, describing the findings as “truly shocking.”