Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants an apology from a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official who posted a fake image on Twitter of an Australian soldier threatening a child with a knife.
Morrison called a press conference on Nov. 30 to denounce the fake image and called it a “terrible slur” on the men and women who serve Australia in uniform.
“The repugnant post made today of an image—a falsified image—of an Australian soldier threatening a young child with a knife; a post made on an official Chinese government Twitter account, posted by the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lijian Zhao, is truly repugnant,” Morrison said.
The prime minister then said the government wants an apology from Zhao, who shared the “outrageous post” on Twitter.
“It is utterly outrageous, and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever,” Morrison said. “The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”
Zhao published the fake image following a report that some Australian special forces soldiers unlawfully killed civilians in Afghanistan during a mission there—writing that the Chinese regime condemns the alleged acts.
Morrison said Australia would handle it through the normal channels and not engage in what he called “deplorable behavior.”
Instead, the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has called China’s ambassador to Australia to set out the government’s firm and clear position on the matter.
Senator Marise Payne, the foreign affairs minister, told Parliament that the government had “called in” the Chinese ambassador and “sought an apology” for the tweet.
“It is an appalling, disgusting and outrageous piece of social media. It is a tweet which illustrates the absolute scourge of disinformation and misinformation in social media and it cannot be justified on any basis,” Payne said.
She added, “It is the most egregious example of this sort of harmful conduct that I have seen in my time in the parliament, in my time in a ministerial portfolio and, in fact, in anybody’s viewing of social media in any context.”
The government was also seeking the image’s removal from Twitter, but the post was still visible on Nov. 30.
The prime minister acknowledged there has been tension between Australia and China but said Zhao’s Twitter post wasn’t the way to handle things.
Beijing’s 200 percent tariffs on wines have been the latest strike by the Chinese regime in response to Australia’s adjustment of its policy settings toward the regime, the introduction of foreign interference laws, and Australia’s call for an inquiry in the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
Morrison says he hopes the incident will lead China to reengage in dialogue with Australia.
The leader of the Opposition Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, joined the prime minister in condemning the tweet, telling Parliament the image was “gratuitous, inflammatory, and deeply offensive.”
“Australia’s condemnation of this image is above politics and we all stand as a nation in condemning it,” Albanese said.
This article has been updated to include comments by Senator Marise Payne, the minister for foreign affairs.