China has refused to apologise for a controversial doctored image depicting an Australian soldier cutting the throat of an Afghan child and said Canberra should be ashamed rather than demanding an apology.
The Chinese foreign ministry reaction comes after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the Chinese government for the ''outrageous and disgusting slur'' and sought an apology.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying on Monday said that rather than demand an apology for the post, Australia should be "ashamed", Al Jazeera reported.
"The Australian side has been reacting so strongly to my colleague's tweet. Why is that? Do they think that their merciless killing of Afghan civilians is justified but the condemnation of such ruthless brutality is not? Afghan lives matter!" she said.
"Shouldn't the Australian government feel ashamed that some of its soldiers on official duty in Afghanistan committed such cruelties?" she added.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said her govt had conveyed its concern about the post to Beijing.
"New Zealand has registered directly with Chinese authorities our concern over the use of that image," Arden told reporters on Tuesday.
"It was an unfactual post, and of course that would concern us. So that is something we have raised directly in the manner that New Zealand does when we have such concerns."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian shared the image on his Twitter handle Monday morning in which a special forces soldier is seen slitting the throat of an Afghan child with a knife and its head wrapped in an Australian flag.
"Don't be afraid we are coming to bring you peace," the image states.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted that he was shocked by the murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners by Australian soldiers. "We strongly condemn such acts and call for holding them accountable," he said.
The illustration was created by Wuheqilin, a self-styled Chinese "wolf warrior" artist, who came to prominence for his pro-Beijing illustrations during the Hong Kong protests last year, the Herald further reported.
The post comes at a time when Australia is facing criticism after the government-initiated Brereton report found Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed 39 murders in Afghanistan.
The relationship between Canberra and Beijing has deteriorated after Australia pushed for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus in April without consulting Beijing, widening cracks in the relationship that had been growing since Canberra banned China's Huawei Technologies Co. from helping build its 5G telecommunications network two years ago.
China also seems to be infuriated by the Australian participation in the Malabar naval exercise earlier this month.