China has continued its relentless rebuke of Australian outrage over a shocking graphic design creation, with Chinese state media creating a new cartoon portraying military murder while Beijing doubled down on its stance, branding Canberra “unbelievably arrogant hypocrites”.
When Scott Morrison demanded an apology on Friday, calling an artist’s image of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child “utterly outrageous”, little did he expect the extent of China’s unwillingness to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
That aggressive, “wolf warrior diplomacy”, which has characterised recent Beijing responses to Australia, showed no signs of slowing down on Tuesday.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused Australia of over-reacting to the image to divert attention away from the Brereton report which alleges Australian special service soldiers played a role in the unlawful killing of 39 Afghan civilians and soldiers.
“[Australia] wants to divert attention, avoid the real issue and relieve some pressure off its shoulder,” she said.
“It is under immense criticism and condemnation from the international community for the ruthless killing of Afghan innocents by some of its soldiers, but the Australian side wants to turn that into a tough-on-China position. Everyone sees that very clearly.”
State media unleashes graphic cartoons
Her comments came as the Communist Party of China’s mouthpiece the Global Times, a constant critic of Australia, continued its attack over Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response with yet another wave of graphic editorials and cartoons.
The stand out cartoon is another swipe at the findings of the Brereton report and shows an Australian soldier smiling to a camera holding a sign that reads ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’.
The soldier is standing on top of a pile of bodies underneath a rug as blood pours out, however this isn’t captured by the camera’s lens.
“A perfect picture of hypocrisy,” the picture is captioned.
In another cartoon published by the state media outlet, a suited kangaroo holds a set of scales with a devil and angel on either side. To the left of the smirking kangaroo is a bloodied knife in a pool of blood.
The images are undoubtedly another attempt to antagonise the Morrison government, with insiders and experts accusing China of waging a propaganda war.
As part of its ongoing attack, Journalist Ai Jun lambasted Canberra for its response to Chinese artist Wuheqilin’s image, that was tactically shared by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday.
“Australia still believes China is inferior, not qualified to criticise the superior Aussies,” Ai wrote.
“Nothing can better portray the mentality when Australia showed much greater anger toward a Chinese cartoon than the crimes of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan,”
“Yet, few knew about Australian soldiers' wrongdoings until Morrison propagandised it through a tantrum against a cartoonist. Now, everyone across the world knows it, and most of them are furious, all thanks to Morrison's shameless quibble.”
On Tuesday, Labor senator Penny Wong appeared to criticise Mr Morrison over his response to the image.
“In the face of deliberate provocation, what we need to do, and what we should do, is to respond calmly and strategically, and not be emotional,” she told ABC News Breakfast.
Graphic cartoon depicts incidents in report, spokeswoman says
On Tuesday, Ms Hua asked reporters: “Why does the Australian side react so strongly on this?”
She defended Wuheqilin’s image by holding up a copy of the Brereton report.
“[His] graphic depicts a fact because its creation is based on the inquiry report issued by the Australian Defence Department,” she said.
Ms Hua was likely referencing an account relayed to military sociologist Dr Samantha Crompvoets detailing two 14-year-old boys having their throats slit by Australian soldiers.
The story had been relayed to her by a military figure off the record however, has not been verified and is classified as rumour.
Ms Hua also accused Australia of double standards, asking how Canberra can publicly condemn Beijing over internal matters such as Hong Kong and Xinjiang, while China is not allowed to do the same when it comes to Australian matters.
“This ‘I can, but you cannot’ approach reflects the attitude of those unbelievably arrogant hypocrites,” she said.
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