‘Stupid’: Barnaby hits out as China makes brutal slur
Barnaby Joyce has likened the Chinese spokesman who posted an inflammatory tweet about Australian soldiers to a "stupid high school student".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted a graphic, doctored image on Monday, depicting an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child. The post was a reference to the Afghan war crimes report.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison lashed the "repugnant" tweet, demanding Beijing take it down and issue an apology.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said firebrand diplomats like Mr Zhao served a purpose to the Chinese regime but were ultimately "short-lived".
"This isn't the work of a smart diplomat, this is the work of a stupid high school student with an incredibly vindictive edge to it," he said.
"They think they're wolf warriors but they're actually a form of Chinese rocket: incredibly colourful, short-lived. They go to great heights quickly and explode never to be seen again.
"You're not going to see in the history of China guys like Zhao Lijian attaining high office."
Twitter has so far refused to act on a request from the federal government to remove the tweet.
But China's Foreign Ministry is not backing down on the inflammatory post, saying Australia had some "soul searching" to do over the allegations in the Brereton report.
"The Australian side is reacting so strongly to my colleague's Twitter. Does that mean that they think the cold-blooded murder of Afghan innocent civilians is justified while other people's condemnation of such crimes are not justified?" spokesman Hua Chunying said on Monday night.
"Afghan lives matter."
CHINA'S BRUTAL SLUR ABOUT AUSTRALIA
The world is watching as Australia demanded an apology from China over the Digger slur, saying it should be "completely ashamed".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison requested a formal apology after a senior Chinese official posted a fake image of a grinning Aussie soldier appearing to hold a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
The scandal made news in the US where the New York Times headline screamed "Australia Condemns Lurid Tweet by Chinese Official as 'Disgusting Slur'".
"The (Twitter) post, with a doctored photograph showing an Australian soldier with a knife to the throat of an Afghan child, sent relations between the two countries to a new low," the Times reported.
"Labelling it a 'disgusting slur,' Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia denounced … what he called a fabricated image posted to Twitter by a Chinese official that showed an Australian soldier with a knife to the throat of an Afghan child."
The New York Post also picked up on the story reporting: "Morrison called the image, which was posted on a government Twitter account, 'truly repugnant' and demanded that it be taken down - but Beijing said there would be no apology."
Chinese military spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday posted the graphic image with the caption: "Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable".
In a further blow to relations, an editorial published in China's The Global Times overnight describes Mr Morrison as "ridiculously arrogant" and suggested he "slap himself in the face".
"How could this Australian PM be so ridiculously arrogant to pick on Chinese FM spokesperson's condemnation against the murder of innocent people?", it says.
"Is the murder fake news? Shouldn't that illustrator have made the cartoon? Didn't the Chinese spokesperson have the right to re-post that cartoon to censure Australian troops' murder of innocent Afghan civilians?".
The post followed an investigation that found Australian soldiers unlawfully killed Afghan civilians and prisoners over an 11-year period.
Zhao's provocation raised hostilities between the two nations to a new boil.
Fuelled by a long list of grievances against Australia, China has retaliated by launching threats against imports of Australian products.
Mr. Morrison on Monday described the fake graphic as shameful.
"There are undoubtedly tensions that exist between China and Australia. But this is not how you deal with them. The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post," Mr Morrison said.
"It diminishes them in the world's eyes."
Defence Chief General Angus Campbell said that elite troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians during the conflict in Afghanistan.
The war crime report recommended that 19 soldiers be referred to federal police for criminal investigation.
Asked about the matter at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying cast blame on Australia.
"What Australia should do is to reflect deeply, bring the perpetrators to justice, make a formal apology to the Afghan people, and solemnly promise to the international community that they will never commit such terrible crimes again," Hua said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology and said Beijing should be ashamed of the Twitter post from the deputy director-general of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian.
"It is utterly outrageous and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever. The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world's eyes,'' he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Monday night declared "Afghan lives matter" and asked whether the Australian government believed the murder of innocent civilians was justified.
Ms Hua said some Australian soldiers had committed serious crimes in the conflict that were "appalling and shocking".
Mr Zhao's Twitter post sought to capitalise on the Brereton inquiry into war crimes alleged to have been committed by a small number of Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan, and showed a gruesome, mocked-up image of a grinning Australian soldier about to cut the throat of a terrified child.
"Don't be afraid, we come to bring you peace!'' it said, superimposed on the image which featured several Australian flags.
The tweet, apparently designed to undermine Australia's military presence in the Middle East, comes as the trade war between Canberra and Beijing continued to escalate, with the relationship between the two countries now at a worrying new low.
Beijing is furious with Australia for calling for an international investigation into the origins and early spread of the novel coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China, about a year ago and has since infected more than 62 million people worldwide, and killed more than 1.4 million people. It has whacked crippling tariffs and import go-slows on billions of dollars' worth of Australian exports, including beef, barley, wine, seafood and coal.
"Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts & call for holding them accountable,'' Mr Zhao tweeted, in English.
His post to his 775,000 followers, sparked condemnation, with responses calling out China's human rights abuses in Tibet, its detention of more than one million Uighur people in recent years and its brutal killings of protesters in the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Intelligence agencies had been warning for months that the Brereton report would likely be misused by some countries and hostile actors such as terrorists groups to discredit Australia's military actions in the Middle East.
Mr Morrison said the tweet was "repugnant'' and he called for the Chinese government to delete it and apologise.
He also called for Twitter to take down the post, and said the "falsified image'' was a "terrible slur'' on Australia's military community.
China's Ambassador in Canberra Cheng Jingye was called in to explain the post, and Mr Morrison said Australia's Ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, was also making representations.
"Australia is seeking an apology from the Ministry of foreign affairs, from the Chinese government, for this outrageous post,'' Mr Morrison said.
"We are also seeking its removal immediately and have also contacted Twitter to take it down immediately. It is a false image and a terrible slur on our great defence forces and the men and women who have served in that uniform for over 100 years.''
Mr Morrison acknowledged "tensions'' between China and Australia but said "this is not how you deal with those tensions.''
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese condemned the tweet, saying it was "gratuitous, inflammatory and deeply offensive.''
"Australia's condemnation of this image is above politics and we all stand as a nation in condemning it,'' he said.
"Today is not a day for Australia in any way to feel wrongly about how we conduct ourselves. Even with this difficult information to deal with, we are dealing with it in the right way.
"The only thing that has brought shame today is this appalling post by the Chinese government."
Deputy chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, Labor MP Anthony Byrne, slammed Mr Zhao.
"This man has shamed himself with his outrageous slander on our brave soldiers. He has shown the ugly face of arrogance and contempt in treating a trusted trade partner and friend so poorly. He knows the world is watching how China treats Australia. He has caused much damage to Australia/China relations and in the process has made China lose face in the world.''
Liberal Senator James Paterson said: "I am happy to compare Australia's human rights record with the Chinese Communist Party's any day of the week. The world will see that tweet for what it is: pathetic hypocrisy.''
Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching said: "It's a childish contribution from a bureaucrat who doesn't speak for Chinese consumers, investors, international students, visitors, and immigrants whose love for Australia is probably without peer around the world.''
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the tweet was an "appalling, disgusting and outrageous piece of social media'' and an "an absolute affront to common decency and to our entire Defence Force.
She said it was an example of the "absolute scourge of disinformation and misinformation" on social media.
Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong told the Senate: "We condemn the action taken by the Chinese Government in the strongest possible terms. It is gratuitous, it is inflammatory and it is deeply offensive. This is not the action, not the behaviour of a responsible, mature international power.
"These tactics will be met with unified condemnation in the Australian community and they will be judged harshly by the international community.''
Originally published as 'Stupid': Barnaby hits out as China makes brutal slur