Politics

China And Australia Are Fighting Over A War Crimes Meme. Here’s What You Need To Know

The PM wants the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs to apologise, but they've just doubled down, saying "the Australian Government should do some soul searching".

China

We missed you too. Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter, so you always know where to find us.

The Australian and Chinese governments are deep into a fight over a photoshopped picture tweeted by a Chinese government official.

The picture in question depicts an Australian soldier holding a knife over the throat of an Afghan child, and is accompanied by the caption “shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the tweet — which is referring to recent findings that Australian soldiers allegedly murdered 39 Afghan civilians — as “repugnant”.

“The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” said the Prime Minister, also adding Australia is seeking an apology from the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs. So far, they have not complied. Instead, it appears the ministry has doubled down, as a spokesperson said “the Australian Government should do some soul searching and bring the culprits to justice, and offer an official apology to the Afghan people and make the solemn pledge that they will never repeat such crimes”.

Labor is firmly siding with “Team Australia” — though, Shadow Minister Penny Wong reckons a “calm and measured” response is the way to go.

The diplomatic standoff based off of a tweet is quite an interesting turn of events in what has been increasing tensions between the two nations. I mean I thought China putting tariffs on Australian wine imports earlier this week was as 2020 as this feud was going to get.

Many Australians are pointing out the hypocrisy of Australia’s response, because of the many human rights violations the government continues to commit, such as the unlawful offshore detention of asylum seekers. China is also no saint — they are currently committing human rights violations characterised by experts as “ethnic cleansing” against Muslim minority Uyghur people in the Xinjiang province. And the post by the Chinese official was by no means a humanitarian effort, but clearly motivated by other political means.

But while Australia has been a critic of the treatment of Uyghur people by the Chinese government, little has been done in the way of things like sanctions, or offers of political asylum to actually assist in the matter.

Typically on the international stage, there is a focus on national sovereignty, which generally means a lack of accountability to the global community about the ongoings inside of a country. This includes human rights violations, and especially when two countries both commit severe human rights violations — as is the case with Australia and China — neither can safely point the finger at the other without it backfiring, and so, both choose not to. Mutual assured destruction of sorts.

It will be interesting to see whether a Chinese official clearly pointing out Australia’s human rights violations on a public social media platform would have any affect on how Australia has so far approached China’s violations.