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"Outrageous" and "repulsive": Australia calls for an apology from China for the tweet mentioned

outrageous-and-repulsive-australia-calls-for-an-apology-from-china-for-the-tweet-mentioned

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the House of Representatives during Question Time at the Houses of Parliament on February 14, 2019 in Canberra, Australia.

Tracey Nearmy | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has requested an apology from the Chinese government after a senior official posted a doctoral picture of an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child's throat.

"Australia apologizes to the State Department and the Chinese government for this outrageous contribution. We are seeking immediate removal and we have also reached out to Twitter to remove it immediately," Morrison told reporters.

Lijian Zhao, a spokesman and deputy director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, previously tweeted the image with the caption: "Shocked by the murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts and demand that they be held accountable."

The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this position. It diminishes them in the eyes of the world.

Scott Morrison

Australia Prime Minister

The picture showed an Australian soldier smiling and sitting on an Australian flag that was obscured by the Afghan flag.

Morrison described the tweet as a "disgusting post" and said it was "deeply offensive" to any Australian, including past and current members of the Australian Defense Forces.

"It is absolutely outrageous and cannot be justified in any way. The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes it in the eyes of the world," said Morrison.

Twitter hasn't removed the tweet yet. The social media platform did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment and asked if it was planned.

Zhao's tweet referred to a report earlier this month about a four-year investigation by the Australian Defense Forces Inspector General. The report found that Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan. The investigation period included incidents that allegedly occurred between 2005 and 2016.

The investigation revealed credible information that junior soldiers were being ordered by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in order to obtain the soldier's first kill – a practice known as "bleeding". All of these unlawful murders are believed to have been committed outside of the "heat of battle".

According to Reuters, 19 current and former soldiers are being referred for possible criminal prosecution.

The bilateral relations between China and Australia have deteriorated in recent months. Earlier this year, Australia supported a growing call for an international investigation into China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Beijing has taken action against Australian exporters, including imposing tough anti-dumping duties on Australian wine exports to China.

Morrison said that while tensions undoubtedly exist between the two countries, they should be addressed in a mature and responsible manner, through engagement at the executive and ministerial levels.

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Katherine Clark