The Chinese regime has, to its own detriment, chosen to reaffirm—not apologise for—a “repugnant” tweet by a top official that has inflamed relations with Australia.
The tweet may have “demonstrably weakened” Beijing in the eyes of the world, according to Simon Benson, the national affairs editor at News Corp’s The Australian.
“[Beijing] clearly has no playbook for how to deal with a country that refuses to acquiesce to power used irresponsibly,” Benson wrote on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to the offensive tweet was “cool-headed,” Benson said, despite his personal anger.
“It has afforded him significant moral authority in the face of increasingly hysterical behaviour [by the Chinese regime],” Benson wrote.
On Monday, Lijian Zhao, a spokesperson for the Chinese regime, published a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.
His post was a response to an official Australian government report about some Australian special forces soldiers unlawfully killing civilians in Afghanistan during a mission there. Zhao wrote that the Chinese regime condemns the alleged acts.
Both sides of Australian politics came together in a united stand against the “deplorable” behaviour of the Chinese regime—behaviour which has been called out several times recently by Australian and U.S. politicians.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a press conference soon after to denounce the propaganda image and called it a “terrible slur” on the men and women who serve Australia in uniform. He also said the government had asked Twitter to remove it.
“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.”
Morrison said Australia would handle it through the normal channels and not engage in what he called “deplorable behaviour.”
Later that day, the leader of the Opposition 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.
On Tuesday, his Party colleague, Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong also condemned the image. In an interview with ABC News Breakfast, she said, “The doctored photograph was not the behaviour of a responsible, mature international player.”
Wong said she believed this was a deliberate provocation by the Chinese regime and it was rightly condemned by all parties and by the Australian community.
She added, “I would say this though: in the face of deliberate provocation, what we need to do, and what we should do, is to respond calmly and strategically, and not be emotional in relation to what was a deliberate provocation.”
Senator Marise Payne, the foreign affairs minister, told Parliament on Monday 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.”
A spokesperson for the Chinese regime Hua Chunwing claimed that she hadn’t heard from the Chinese embassy in Canberra and said it would be “unjustified” for the Australian government to lodge any representations there.
Hua denied that the Chinese regime’s tweet was linked to Australia-China relations—which have fractured due to Beijing’s trade strikes and economic coercion.
Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) imposed tariffs of up to 212 percent on Australian wine exports last weekend.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed the allegations of dumping practices immediately, when Beijing first announced them in August, telling reporters, “We totally don’t accept any suggestion that there has been any dumping of Australian wine in China whatsoever.”
The Chinese embassy in Canberra also recently leaked a list of grievances against Australia, among which are Australia’s foreign investment rules, the banning Huawei from Australia’s 5G network, and Australia’s call for an inquiry into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (novel coronavirus) pandemic.
In the meantime, Twitter has told News Corp’s The Australian that it will mark the Chinese regime official’s image as “sensitive media.” It has also labelled Lijian Zhao’s account as an “official government account.”