Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Canberra, Australia, June 26, 2020. (Photo by Chu Chen/Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Monday rejected Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's demand for an apology from China over a tweet from Hua's colleague showing an Australian soldier murdering a child, saying that the Australian government should feel "ashamed" for murdering Afghan civilians.
Observers said Morrison's move aims at diverting public attention from Australia's inhumanity in Afghanistan.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian tweeted earlier on Monday a satirical cartoon featuring an Australian soldier murdering a child. Zhao commented: "Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable."
According to a Monday report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Morrison is demanding that the Chinese government delete the tweet. Australia is seeking an apology from the Chinese government, Morrison said, claiming that the cartoon is fake and that China should "feel ashamed" of it.
Zhao pinned the tweet later.
Chinese observers said that it is a popular satirical cartoon condemning the alleged killing of prisoners and innocent civilians in Afghanistan by Australian soldiers, and Zhao's use of the cartoon to call for an investigation into the matter is reasonable, while Morrison's demand is ridiculous and cunning.
Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Monday that the alleged murder of 39 unarmed and innocent Afghan civilians by Australian soldiers was inhumane and condemned by China and the rest of the international community.
Morrison's demand for an apology from China is a trick aimed at diverting public attention from Australia's crimes in Afghanistan, Chen noted.
His move could cause bilateral relations to continue to spiral downward, Chen said.
According to media reports, the Australian military recently released a report detailing war crimes allegedly committed by Australian forces serving in Afghanistan, including many incidents involving the killing of prisoners and innocent civilians.
Hua listed several examples that emerged from media and the military report, including that Australian soldiers shot adult men and boys in groups, blindfolded them and cut their throats, put two 14-year-old boys into bags after cutting their throats and throwing them into a river, and forcing new recruits to shoot prisoners for "practice."
"Is it reasonable to cruelly kill Afghan innocent civilians, but unreasonable for others to condemn such cruel crimes?" Hua asked.
Afghan lives matter, Hua said.
Morrison's demand for an apology from China over Zhao's tweet also triggered a backlash by the cartoon's creator, Wuheqilin.
Wuheqilin told the Global Times on Monday that he was surprised by the Australian prime minister's strong reaction to his fact-based cartoon.
"Morrison's outrage should not target Zhao, or me, but the crimes by the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan," Wuheqilin said.
He recalled that his inspiration to draw the cartoon emerged after he saw foreign media reports of the murders earlier this month, which "shocked" him and made him "shudder."
So he drew the absurdist cartoon based on the facts in attempt to attract public attention to the Australian crime in Afghanistan and trigger introspection over the inhumane cases, Wuheqilin said.
China-Australia relations have been deteriorating. Australia has repeatedly used wrong words and deeds on issues involving China's core interests and major concerns, which is widely regarded as the root cause of the relationship falling to its lowest point.