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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.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.