The acting immigration minister and prime minister have moved swiftly to distance the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from the Chinese Australian community, following uproar over a graphic Twitter post by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
“The Chinese Communist Party Government’s tweet showing a fake image of an Australian soldier murdering a young child is an absolute disgrace and cannot be justified on any basis,” Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge wrote on Facebook on Monday.
“It is also important to remember that the Chinese Communist Party’s views are theirs alone,” Tudge said. “I don’t believe their tweet reflects the views of the 1.2 million Australians of Chinese heritage who have chosen to call our great nation home.”
It marks one of the first instances where an Australian minister has made a clear distinction between the CCP and Chinese people.
On Monday, Zhao Lijian, the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian Defence Force (ADF) soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.
His post was a response to an official Australian government report about some ADF soldiers unlawfully killing civilians in Afghanistan during a mission.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded by calling a press conference to denounce the Twitter post calling it a “terrible slur” on the ADF and demanded an apology from the CCP.
“The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” Morrison said while criticising the official for conducting himself in such a manner.
On Wednesday, the prime minister moved to Chinese social media app WeChat to appeal directly to the Chinese Australian community saying:
“We acknowledge and greatly appreciate and value the contribution that generations of Chinese migrants have made to Australia.”
“Our Chinese Australian community will continue to play an important role in ensuring we remain a successful, multicultural nation,” Morrison said.
Efforts to separate the CCP from the Chinese people echo remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this year in July during his “Nixon speech”.
“We must … engage and empower the Chinese people – a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
“The CCP fears the Chinese people’s honest opinions more than any foe and save for losing their own grip on power …” Pompeo continued.
One of the main indoctrination efforts of the CCP is to conflate the concept of the Party with the Chinese people and nation. In turn, Chinese people are compelled to defend the CCP from criticism, as they may construe the critique as an attack on the nation itself.
This gives the CCP and its supporters a tool to divert legitimate criticism from itself to other issues. One common tactic is to accuse critics of the CCP of racism as Federal Liberal Senator Eric Abetz found out when examining issues surrounding CCP interference in Australia’s multicultural communities.
Abetz, who asked three Chinese Australians whether they were willing to condemn the CCP, was accused of racism after the they refrained from directly condemning the regime. The Chinese Australians, Osmond Chiu, Yun Jiang, and Wesa Chau, mischaracterised Senator Abetz’s question as a “loyalty test” afterwards.
The Australian Values Alliance, which is comprised of Chinese Australian pro-democracy activists, criticised the three individuals in an open letter saying they were “deeply concerned” that racism was being “weaponised in the political arena.”
“This is a common tactic of the CCP, which we have observed in recent years since the Australian Government has taken important steps to protect our freedoms,” the letter read.