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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lashed out at the Chinese government after a senior spokesperson shared a confronting fake image referring to alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian shared the digitally-edited image on Monday afternoon, using an official government account to condemn the alleged “murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers.”

The image itself shows an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child’s throat. Under their feet is an Australian flag, which conceals the outlines of several bodies, and elements of the Afghan flag.

via Zhao Lijian / Twitter

The image is a reference to the Brereton Report, the recently-completed investigation which alleges Australian special forces troops were responsible for the unlawful killing of 39 people in Afghanistan.

Speaking in Canberra shortly after the image went live, Morrison said he has sought an apology from the Chinese government for the “repugnant” post. Australian officials have reportedly reached out to make it happen.

“It is deeply offensive to every Australian,” Morrison said, adding, “It is utterly outrageous, and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever.”

He said the Chinese Government should be “totally ashamed” of the image, and confirmed the Australian Government has asked Twitter to take it down.

It’s still up, at time of writing.

The post, and the inference that Australian troops are responsible for reprehensible crimes, is the latest escalation of tensions between Australia and China.

An ongoing trade dispute with China saw the nation slap tariffs of up to 200 per cent on Australian wine last week, the latest in a string of gut-punches to Australia’s agricultural export industries.

These trade disputes are backdropped by political differences between each nation and their differing visions for the future of the Asia-Pacific region (read: despite China being a primary export partner, Australia is still really close to the US, even though America has taken a pretty negative view of Chinese influence in recent years).

That the ongoing tension has devolved to shitposting about alleged war crimes is a pretty dark turn.

As for the report itself: it’s in the hands of a special investigator, whose job is to assess evidence provided by the report and prepare briefs for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Earlier, Morrison warned that nothing about the report would be pleasant. It’s hard to imagine him envisioning this brand of government-sanctioned criticism, though.

Image: Sam Mooy / Getty Images / Twitter