‘Deepfake photo of soldier killing child’ sparks row between Australia and China

A fake picture appearing to show an Australian soldier smirking as he slaughters a young Afghan child has sparked an international row.

Australia has demanded an apology from China over the mocked-up image which depicted a sinister murder.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing should be “utterly ashamed” for the “repugnant” picture.

The image referred to alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers accused of dozens of murders of civilians and prisoners.

It comes following escalating political tensions between the two nations.

Earlier this month, a report found “credible information” that Aussie soldiers were involved in the murders of 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2013.

An Australian Defence Force inquiry found details that were widely condemned and are now subject of a police probe.

Australia has already told 13 special forces soldiers they face dismissal in relation to an independent report on alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan, the head of the country’s army said on Friday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian since posted the contentious image on his official Twitter account.

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Mr Zhao's tweet said: "Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable."

It was accompanied by a faked image of a solider appearing to cut the throat of a young civilian holding a sheep, together with the words: “Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace!”

Australia quickly requested the social media platform delete the post and described it as “misinformation”.

The post, coming from an official Chinese government account, has been shared several thousand times.

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“It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.”

Mr Morrison went on to acknowledge that there are "undoubtedly" tensions between the two nations, but said: "This is not how you deal with it."

But China quickly doubled down on the post, and said it was Australia that needed to be apologetic.

Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, snapped: “It is the Australian government who should feel ashamed for their soldiers killing innocent Afghan civilians”.

Human rights campaigners have quickly slammed China as hypercritical following its own record in places such as Hong Kong.

Elaine Pearson, the director of Human Rights Watch in Australia, told Guardian Australia the tweet was “breathtakingly, gobsmackingly hypocritical”.

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