Earlier this month, a report found that 25 Australian soldiers were allegedly involved in the murders of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013. The findings from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) inquiry sparked widespread condemnation, and are now being investigated by police.
On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image which portrayed an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a child. The child is seen holding a lamb.
the Australian government was demanding an apology from China and had asked Twitter to remove the tweet, which was pinned at the top of Zhao’s feed and had gained more that 2100 interactions and retweeted 1,400 times.
According to Morrison, “It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis,” Morrison said. “The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”
“It is a false image and a terrible slur on our great defence forces and the men and women who have served in that uniform for over 100 years. There are undoubtedly tensions that exist between China and Australia, but this is not how you deal with them.”
Morrison claimed that the Australian Government had established a “transparent and honest” process for investigating the allegations against the accused soldiers and this “is what a free, democratic, liberal country does”.
Morrison indicated he had also sought talks with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. He said he hoped “this rather awful event” might “lead to the type of reset where this dialogue can be restarted, without condition – which we can sit down and start talking sensibly”.
He said the dispute was not just about the two countries involved, but that other nations were watching how China was treating Australia’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and stand up for its values.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, China’s nationalist state media outlet, said Morrison had no reason to feel upset about the use of this cartoon,” and the calls for an apology were “ridiculous and shameless”.