China doubles down on criticising Australia over Afghanistan, amid continuing public spat

China doubles down on criticising Australia over Afghanistan, amid continuing public spat

China has doubled down on its criticism of Australia after refusing to remove a tweet featuring a digital illustration of an Australian soldier appearing to murder a child in Afghanistan and accusing the Australian government of using the row to divert attention from alleged “atrocities” by Australian soldiers.

Both governments issued statements on Tuesday as the matter spilled from Twitter to other public forums and the Australian government used the Chinese social platform WeChat to address “the fake photo” but also praise aspects of the Australian-Chinese relationship.

The Chinese foreign ministry refused to take down the controversial tweet by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian despite demands on Monday by the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, that the tweet be deleted and China apologise.

The tweet included an image targeting the behaviour of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan as revealed by a recent domestic war crimes inquiry. It depicted a grinning Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of a child, who in turn is holding a lamb. The child’s face is draped in the Australian flag and a pained expression is visible.