The United States has come to Australia’s defence as controversy over the communist nation’s offensive tweet continues to rage.
The US ambassador to Australia has weighed in on the China tweet controversy, accusing Beijing of spreading “fabricated images and disingenuous statements”.
Chinese foreign spokesman Lijian Zhao sparked controversy on Monday by tweeting a doctored, graphic image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child’s neck.
The post was accompanied by a call for Australian soldiers to be held accountable for the findings of the Brereton report, which uncovered credible evidence elite Australian soldiers murdered 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison lashed the “repugnant” post, demanding Beijing remove it and issue an apology.
US ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse has now joined a growing chorus of outrage at the post, accusing Beijing of spreading “fabricated images and disingenuous statements”.
China has refused to apologise for or remove the tweet, accusing Mr Morrison of “stoking nationalism” and attempting to deflect from “horrible atrocities” committed by Australians.
But with China facing its own accusations of humanitarian abuses over the treatment of its Uyghur population, Mr Culvahouse said Beijing could learn from the transparency of the Brereton report.
“Australia responsibly investigated and disclosed allegations that its soldiers committed crimes in Afghanistan,” he said.
“The world can only wish that the Chinese Communist Party were to bring the same degree of transparency and accountability to credible reports of atrocities against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
Beijing also resisted calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, led by Australia. Chinese scientists have recently claimed the pandemic originated in India.
“As we know from leaked reports published this week, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) government has yet to come clean on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, which is daily killing thousands of people worldwide,” Mr Culvahouse said.
“The People’s Republic of China would do well to follow Australia’s example and disclose to the world all it knows about the origin of the COVID-19 virus.”
US State Department deputy spokesperson Cale Brown has also tweeted his support for Australia, describing the post as “a new low, even for the Chinese Communist Party”.
“The CCP’s latest attack on Australia is another example of its unchecked use of disinformation and coercive diplomacy,” he wrote.
“Its hypocrisy is obvious to all. While it doctors images on Twitter to attack other nations, it prevents its own citizens from reading its post.
“As the CCP spreads disinformation, it covers up its horrendous human rights abuses, including the detention of more than a million Muslims in Xinjiang. The CCP seeks to change the subject to avoid accountability. We can’t let them.”
Mr Morrison has reached out directly to the Chinese-Australian population via messaging app Wechat, assuring them the post does not undermine Australia’s admiration for the Chinese community.
“The post of a false image of an Australian soldier does not diminish our respect for and appreciation of our Chinese Australian community or indeed our friendship with the people of China,” the post said.
“We acknowledge and greatly appreciate and value the contribution that generations of Chinese migrants have made to Australia.
“Migrants from China have been arriving in Australia for more than two hundred years and Australians of Chinese background have added immensely to our nation.”
He said Australia would continue to operate as a “free, democratic and enlightened nation” as it worked through the findings of the Brereton report.
“When incidents allegedly occur that require action, we have established honest and transparent procedures for dealing with them,” Mr Morrison said.
“Australia will remain true to our values and protect our sovereignty. It’s in our national interest.”
But he insisted the report did not alter his “deep pride” for Australia’s servicemen and women.
“I am proud of their hard work in the service and their dedication keeping Australia and Australians safe,” the post said.
“I am proud of their loyalty to our country and its values.”