Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao has refused to apologize for tweeting a fake image depicting Australian war crimes following an Australian Defence Force (ADF) report alleging Australian soldiers were involved in the murder of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013.
The fake image depicts an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a boy holding a lamb. The image references allegations that soldiers used knives to murder two 14-year-old Afghan boys. The ADF report does not support those allegations. The report did find “‘credible evidence’ of unlawful killings and a ‘warrior culture’ within elite units.”
Zhao’s tweet states, “Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated the tweet is “truly repugnant, deeply offensive, utterly outrageous.” Morrison noted that Australia is engaged in a transparent process to investigate the alleged war crimes.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia refused to apologize on Tuesday, stating, “The accusations made are simply to serve two purposes. One is to deflect public attention from the horrible atrocities by certain Australian soldiers. The other is to blame China for the worsening of bilateral ties. There may be another attempt to stoke domestic nationalism.”
Tensions between China and Australia have been escalating since Australia called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. China followed by imposing tariffs and trade stoppages on Australia, including tariffs of up to 200 percent on Australian wine.