'Slap himself': China fires back after PM calls for 'repugnant' image apology

The outspoken editor of one of the Communist Party of China’s mouthpieces has waded in on the furore surrounding a disturbing fake image shared by a senior Chinese official, insisting Prime Minister Scott Morrison should “slap himself in the face” for his calls for an apology.

Repeated critic of Australia and Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin lashed out at Mr Morrison over his response to the tweet of foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, which pictured a grinning Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.

A furious Mr Morrison called the image “truly repugnant” on Monday and said China should be ashamed of the image.

It is Beijing’s latest attack on Canberra days after China initially expressed its horror over the findings of the Brereton report which alleges Australian special force soldiers played a role in the alleged unlawful killing of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.

Yet in similar fashion to foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying who later on Monday refused to apologise over her colleague’s post, Hu went on the offensive in yet another editorial.

“I was really shocked and disgusted. How could this Australian PM be so ridiculously arrogant to pick on Chinese FM spokesperson's condemnation against the murder of innocent people?” he wrote.

“Morrison should kneel down on the ground, slap himself in the face, and kowtow to apologise to Afghans – all these should be done in a live telecast. No matter what harsh words people use on them for the murder, the Australian government should have accepted it. How dare they talk back and say they are offended!”

The editorial was one of several published on the site on Monday targeting Australia. Hu wrapped up his by issuing Australia with a daunting warning.

The Twitter image shared by Zhao Lijian shows an Australian soldier slitting the throat of a child.
The fake image shows an Australian soldier slitting the throat of a child. Source: Zhao Lijian/Twitter

“Australian troops and fleets should leave Asia and the coastal waters of the Asian continent,” he wrote.

“More precisely, they should run as far as they can. The Morrison administration is making Australia provocative and wanting a spanking.”

Beijing’s failure to back down over the image will only cement their stance on Australia, which sees the badly-damaged relationship only deteriorate further.

Relations have plummeted in 2020 amid a series of disagreements and Mr Morrison conceding there were clear diplomatic and trade tensions between the two countries.

The image shared by Mr Zhao appears to be reference to an alleged incident mentioned in the Brereton report where Australian soldiers had allegedly cut the throats of two 14-year-old Afghan boys.

Mr Morrison called for Twitter to delete the post however it still remains and is pinned to the top of Zhao’s feed.

Pictured is China's foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
Zhao Lijian has pinned the tweet to the top of his feed. Source: FMPRC

Ms Hua listed those allegations on Monday as part of the “heinous” crimes committed by Australian soldiers despite the Brereton report’s failure to verify them, the ABC reported.

“Shouldn't the Australian government feel ashamed that some of its soldiers on official duty in Afghanistan committed such cruelties?” she said.

Hu said the image shared by Mr Zhao was a “popular cartoon” that had been circulating on Chinese social media.

While Labor Senator Penny Wong on Tuesday said Australia was right to collectively condemn the image, she appeared to disagree with Mr Morrison’s approach during his Monday press conference.

“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 on Tuesday.

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