China claims Australia ‘overreacted’ to deepfake photo of soldier killing child

China's embassy in Australia said politicians there had "misread" a deepfake image of an Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

It also accused Australia's politicians of seizing the opportunity to stoke nationalism.

A doctored photograph sparked an international row on Monday after China's foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, shared it before pinning it to the top of his Twitter page.

China's Global Times newspaper, known for nationalistic views went as far as interviewing the Chinese artist who created the image.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the tweet as "truly repugnant", and called for an apology.

But the Chinese embassy in Canberra said in a statement on Tuesday: "The rage and roar of some Australian politicians and media is nothing but misreading of and overreaction to Mr Zhao's tweet."

Australia's Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary had called ambassador Cheng Jingye on Monday to complain about the social media post.

Cheng however had "refuted the unwarranted accusations as absolutely unacceptable" and Australia was seeking to "stoke domestic nationalism", and "deflect public attention from the horrible atrocities by certain Australian soldiers", it said.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier on Tuesday that New Zealand has registered its concern with Chinese
authorities over the use of the "unfactual" image of the soldier.

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An independent investigation into allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan found 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians were killed.

Australia has said 19 soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution.

Morrison apologised to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani before the public release of the investigation report a fortnight ago.

The inflammatory tweet came just days after China effectively blocked an A$1.2 billion / £660 million wine export industry by imposing dumping tariffs of up to 200% on Australian wine.

Australia has said there looks to be a pattern of Chinese trade sanctions against Australian products this year, linked to
Beijing's diplomatic grievances over Australia's national security, human rights and foreign policy decisions

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