Australia has demanded an apology from Beijing over a Chinese government tweet linked to alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
Credible evidence was found that 39 Afghans were killed by Australian soldiers, a long-awaited report concluded earlier this month.
Lijian Zhao, a spokesman for China’s foreign affairs ministry, tweeted a composite image referring to the report with the words: “Shocked by [the] murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts.”
The image, not a real photograph, shows a grinning soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of a veiled child, who is holding a lamb.
It is thought to refer to unsubstantiated parts of the report and it sparked outrage from Australia PM Scott Morrison.
He demanded an apology and called on Twitter to remove the image.
In a statement to The Cube, Euronews’ social media newsdesk, Twitter said the tweet has been marked for containing sensitive media. This label appears depending on a user’s settings. Twitter gave The Cube no indication the tweet was going to be removed.
This tweet has escalated already existing tension between China and Australia. In April, Morrison called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, there has been a number of instances that have caused relations to further deteriorate. In August, an Australian anchor for Chinese media group CGTN, Cheng Lei, was arrested. The arrest caused an international outcry.
In recent days the Chinese government has also slapped tariffs on Australian wine, at a rate of between 107% to 212%. Australia relies on China as a key trading partner.