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Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, this month. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

China is refusing Australia's demands to apologize after a Chinese government official tweeted a doctored image depicting an Australian soldier holding a knife to a blood-stained Afghan child.

Driving the news: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Monday he wanted the "outrageous" and "repugnant" post removed immediately.

  • "The Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post," Morrison said. "It diminishes them in the world’s eyes."

The other side: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying defended her colleague's tweet in a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

  • She said Australia should "offer an official apology" over inquiry findings this month that there's "credible" evidence to support allegations that Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan.
  • "Afghan lives matter... shouldn't the Australian soldiers feel ashamed?" she added.

For the record: A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement they have marked the image as "sensitive media," noting that the account is labeled as an official government account and that comments on political or military issues are generally not in violation of Twitter's rules.

The big picture: Relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years, with the Australian government citing Chinese influence concerns as it passed legislation to prevent foreign interference.

  • Morrison also called for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic, prompting Chinese officials to accuse Australia of being "keen" to follow the U.S. by attacking Beijing.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 12, 2021 - Technology

A tale of two Jacks

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Costfoto (Barcroft Media), Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

In China, President Xi Jinping has silenced Alibaba founder Jack Ma and launched an antitrust investigation into his company after the e-commerce tycoon publicly criticized state regulators. In the U.S., Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has suspended President Donald Trump's accounts after the president used the platform to incite violence.

The big picture: The juxtaposition of two almost perfectly inverse situations reveals how differently China and the U.S. have approached the management of tech giants and digital information.

2 hours ago - World

Taiwan leader confirms U.S. troops on island training forces

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei earlier this month. Photo: I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen told CNN Thursday that a small number of American troops are on the island for training purposes and she has "faith" the U.S. would defend the democracy against a Chinese military attack.

Why it matters: This is the first time a Taiwanese leader has publicly acknowledged the presence of U.S. troops on the self-governing island since the last U.S. garrison left in 1979, when Washington switched formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.