Australia demands that China apologize over doctored tweet

Sydney, Australia / Beijing, Nov 30 (efe-epa).- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded Monday that China apologize for publishing a “disgusting” tweet via a Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman.

“The Chinese government must feel totally ashamed by this message. It lessens them in the eyes of the world,” Morrison said, referring to the doctored image published by Zhao Lijian on Twitter, which is censored in China.

Morrison said the publication “is totally outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis” and said they have asked Twitter to immediately remove this message containing “a false image.”

Zhao Lijian’s controversial tweet, which remained on the social network six hours on, accompanies a photograph in which a soldier wearing a military uniform and helmet with the Australian flag presses a bloody knife to the neck of a veiled, barefoot child holding a sheep.

The ground where both appear is covered by the Australian flag, which also covers several inert bodies, and the Afghan flag, made up of pieces of a puzzle.

The Chinese official wrote in his tweet that he was “shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, &call for holding them accountable.”

Zhao Lijian’s post comes after Australia admitted Nov. 19 that its army allegedly killed 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2005 and 2016 during its deployment to Afghanistan.

Army Chief Rick Burr reported Friday that 13 soldiers had been notified of their expulsion, without specifying whether they are part of the defendants, after investigating the alleged war crimes committed by the military.

In turn, directors of the Chinese nationalist newspaper Global Times, Hu Xijin, came out in defense of the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, also through Twitter.

“It is a well-known cartoon that condemns the brutal killing of 39 Afghan civilians by Australian Special Forces,” Hu said.

“On the basis of what is Morrison angry about the use of the vignette by the foreign spokesman? It is ridiculous and shameful that he demands an apology from China,” he said.

Diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing have been seriously deteriorated for some time by various dialectical clashes, trade tensions between both nations and political measures promoted by Australia.

“There are undoubtedly tensions between China and Australia, but this is not the way to deal with them,” Morrison said in his message.

Australia vetoed Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from concessions on its fifth-generation (5G) network in 2018 for security reasons, and has pushed for laws to prevent foreign political interference, without referring directly to China.

Commercially, where China is Australia’s main trading partner, Beijing has increased import rates for several Australian products by accusing the country of subsidies, something Canberra rejects, which sees the measures as a boycott of its products.

The countries also maintain deep ideological differences and disagree on issues such as human rights or militarization and free navigation in the disputed South China Sea, among others. EFE-EPA


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