Propaganda or provocation? China found itself indulging in a bit of both at the same time when on Monday Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian posted an image that was not just fabricated but also portrayed an Australian soldier with a knife next to a child who is, in the image, seen holding a lamb.
The disturbing picture, created by a Chinses artist, did ruffle many feathers, probably just as intended, when Australia demanded an apology from China over it. The fact that the image was posted from a government official's Twitter account and pinned like a medal of honour makes Australia's demand for an apology a little louder.
Even though the Chinese tweet points fingers at previous reports and allegations that Australian soldiers killed two 14-year-old Afghan boys. Along with the image, Zhao Lijian's post further reads, "Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in his most undiplomatic language yet, has demanded that Beijing take down the post and apologize and also said it should be, "utterly ashamed" for sharing the "repugnant image." He also called the post, "deeply offensive and utterly outrageous."
The ever-deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra thereby hit a new low. Surprisingly Twitter that was labeling Trump's tweet by the hour, is yet to label the image. Not so surprisingly, China is yet to apologize or even take down the image.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying refused to apologize saying in fact Australia should apologise. "The Australian Government should do some soul searching and bring the culprits to justice, and offer an official apology to the Afghan people and make the solemn pledge that they will never repeat such crimes."
Behind the picture
The doctored image comes in the wake of an inquiry, which recommended that 19 current and serving special forces soldiers face criminal investigation for the murder of at least 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners. The findings from the Australian Defence Force inquiry has sparked fierce and widespread criticism and is now being investigated by the nation's police.
In some of the shocking footage that emerged last week, an Australian SAS soldier can be seen shooting an unarmed Afghan man dead in a field. Australia's defense minister Linda Reynolds said she was "physically ill" after reading the findings of the investigation.
The tweet fetched the intense reactions it aimed at and some of the over reactions generally emerging out of tense diplomatic ties.
Many of the social media reactions mocked at the irony of Twitter ban in China, while still some others brought out the hate slash war crimes that China has allegedly committed in the past.