ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon Twitter
International relations

China says Australia 'misread' offending social media post

Embassy accuses Canberra of seeking to 'stoke domestic nationalism'

Tensions between Australia and China are rising.   © Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) -- China's embassy in Australia said politicians there had "misread" a tweet showing a digitally altered image of an Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child, and were trying to stoke nationalism.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday called the tweet posted by China's foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, "truly repugnant," and called for an apology.

On Tuesday the tweet was pinned to the top of Zhao's social media account, and China's Global Times newspaper, known for nationalistic views, interviewed the Chinese artist who created the image.

"The rage and roar of some Australian politicians and media is nothing but misreading of and overreaction to Mr. Zhao's tweet," the Chinese embassy in Canberra said in a statement on Tuesday.

Australia's Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary had called ambassador Cheng Jingye on Monday to complain about the social media post, it confirmed, adding that Cheng had "refuted the unwarranted accusations as absolutely unacceptable."

Australia was seeking to "stoke domestic nationalism," and "deflect public attention from the horrible atrocities by certain Australian soldiers," it said.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier on Tuesday that New Zealand has registered its concern with Chinese authorities over the use of the "unfactual" image of the soldier.

An independent investigation into allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan found 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians were killed, and Australia has said 19 soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution.

Morrison apologized to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani before the public release of the investigation report a fortnight ago.

The inflammatory tweet came just days after China effectively blocked the 1.2 billion-Australian-dollar ($883.44 million) wine export industry by imposing dumping tariffs of up to 200% on Australian wine.

Australia had said there looked to be a pattern of Chinese trade sanctions against Australian products this year, linked to Beijing's diplomatic grievances over Australia's national security, human rights and foreign policy decisions.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

Nikkei Asian Review, now known as Nikkei Asia, will be the voice of the Asian Century.

Celebrate our next chapter
Free access for everyone - Sep. 30

Find out more