Australia’s angry reaction to a meme showing one of its soldiers holding an Afghan child at knifepoint, shared by a Chinese diplomat, is an attempt to deflect public attention from its war crimes, China’s Embassy in Canberra said.
The Australian authorities contacted the Chinese ambassador on Monday to complain about the tweet, but he refuted all accusations as “unwarranted” and “absolutely unacceptable,” the embassy said in a statement shared on social media.
The rage and roar of some Australian politicians and media is nothing but a misreading of and overreaction to Mr. Zhao’s tweet.
Such behavior from the Australian side was intended only “to deflect public attention from the horrible atrocities by certain Australian soldiers” and blame China for the worsening of relations between Beijing and Canberra, it said. It could also have been an “attempt to stoke domestic nationalism,” the embassy suggested.
Instead, the Chinese diplomats advised Canberra to punish those responsible for war crimes, bring justice to the Afghan victims, and “take constructive practical steps” to restore its ties with Beijing.
On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, published a tweet accompanied by an image of a uniformed Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of a young Afghan child. The caption read: “Don’t be afraid. We’re coming to bring you peace.”
The controversial meme was a reaction to a report by the Australian authorities last month that revealed members of the country’s special forces had been responsible for executing dozens of civilians and non-combatants in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2014.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison staged an emergency press conference to respond to Zhao’s tweet, saying it was “utterly outrageous” and “cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever.”
It was a “false image and a terrible slur” on the Australian military, he insisted, calling on Beijing to apologize and urging Twitter to remove the post. However, both demands so far remain unfulfilled.
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