Commentary on Political Economy

Sunday, 29 November 2020


China's shock propaganda inflames tensions

Andrew Tillett
Andrew TillettPolitical correspondent

Scott Morrison has accused China of posting a "repugnant" and fake image of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan boy in a dramatic escalation of tensions with Australia.

Mr Morrison said the government has protested to the Chinese government over the Foreign Ministry's tweet, demanding it be taken down and an apology issued. The government has also contacted Twitter to have it removed.

"It's deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform," Mr Morrison said.

"It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever.

"The only thing that has brought shame today is this appalling post by the Chinese government."

The government has protested to both the Chinese embassy in Australia and through the Australian embassy in Beijing.

Despite the sickening propaganda, Mr Morrison said the "awful incident" should prompt a reset in relations and new dialogue between Beijing and Canberra.

Emphasising Australia's democratic principles, Mr Morrison said few countries had been as willing as Australia had when faced with allegations of war crimes.

"The alleged actions of a few, do not define the tremendous service of a great many," he said.

Referring to the recent investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Australian special forces, the ministry’s chief mouthpiece Lijian Zhao posted on Twitter the doctored image.

"Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable," the tweet said.

The doctored photo shows a soldier crouching and clutching a bloodied knife against the throat of a young boy who is holding a lamb. The boy's face is shrouded by the edge of an Australian flag.

The photo is captioned "Don't be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace".

Mr Zhao, at the ministry's regular daily press conference on Friday, was asked about the Brereton report into war crimes and said there should be a thorough investigation to "bring the culprits to justice".

"Australia and some other western countries always portray themselves as human rights defenders and wantonly criticise other countries' human rights conditions," he said.

"The facts revealed by this report fully exposed the hypocrisy of the "human rights" and "freedom" these western countries are always chanting."

The report found Australian soldiers may have murdered 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians. In response, 19 soldiers have been referred to a new special investigator for war crimes.

Australia has been a strong critic on human rights violations committed by China's communist regime, including the mass detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang in what human rights campaigners have labelled genocide. 

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