|Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Remarks|
Bloomberg: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking an apology from China after your colleague tweeted an image that purports to show an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. Mr. Morrison called the tweet repugnant. He called for Twitter to remove it. He also said that the Chinese government should be totally ashamed of this post. Can I ask for any comments on this?
Hua Chunying: The heinous crimes committed by some Australian soldiers in Afghanistan have been reported by the Australian media and confirmed by the Australian Department of Defense in an inquiry report. Chief of Defense General Angus Campbell also talked about this report at a press conference announcing its release. The details in this report are shocking and appalling. Men and boys in a whole village were shot in the head or blindfolded and with throats slit. Two 14-year-old boys were killed with their throats slit and their bodies were bagged and thrown into a nearby river. Junior soldiers were required to shoot a prisoner in a practice that was known as "blooding". These atrocities have been unequivocally and strongly condemned and deplored by the international community.
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! The Australian government should conduct honest and deep reflections and hold the perpetrators accountable. It owes the Afghan people a formal apology and a solemn promise that it will never ever commit these horrible crimes again.
You cited the Australian side's words that the Chinese government should be ashamed. Shouldn't the Australian government feel ashamed that some of its soldiers on official duty in Afghanistan committed such cruelties?
BBC: Secretary of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressed Australia's position on the tweet to the Chinese ambassador to Australia. Can you tell us what the Chinese side said in response?
Hua Chunying: I haven't heard anything from the Chinese Embassy in Australia and I got the news from media reports. It's unjustified for the Australian side to lodge representations with the Chinese embassy if they have done so. The Australian side should first make a formal apology to the Afghan people. As I said just now, according to the Australian media reports and the inquiry report issued by the Australian Department of Defense, some Australian soldiers have brutally killed innocent civilians in Afghanistan. This is a fact. The specific methods used by these Australian troops as well as other details, including slitting children's throat, are another fact. The Australian government should be ashamed of this. It needs to give an explanation to the international community and and pledge solemnly that it will never commit such terrible crimes again.
BBC: Australian reports say some soldiers have already been dismissed and there will be criminal proceedings in Australia about this. Some people will go to jail and be punished for it. What measures does China hope to see that are taken by the Australian government
Hua Chunying: As a mature government, the Australian government should know the proper way to deal with this horrible matter.
BBC: A couple of follow-ups on this Afghanistan matter. The artwork in that tweet, was it specially commissioned for the purposes of this tweet? Also, one of the things the Australian government has called for is for it to be taken down. Will it be taken down or will it remain on Twitter?
Hua Chunying: I noticed the picture posted online, but I don't know who drew it. I think it reflects people's indignation towards the brutal killing of innocent Afghan civilians, especially children, by some Australian soldiers, as exposed by Australian media.
The Australian government's request for Twitter to delete the tweet is a matter between the Australian government and the Twitter company. However, I think the Australian government must face up to the reality. Isn't it true that some Australian troops committed such horrible crimes in Afghanistan and went as far as slitting the throat of Afghan children? I think the Australian government needs to face up to the fact, deeply reflect upon it, and take concrete actions to prevent such inhuman crimes from happening again. I don't think it's mature and sensible for them if on one hand they don't feel ashamed for their troops murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and on the other hand they couldn't face any condemnation and even make irrational comments on it.
Reuters: Chine state media raised the report of the Australian army last week amid criticism from Australia over wine tariffs and other trade measures. Australia has also criticized China's rights record this year. Is China's new stance on the Australian army investigation linked to recent tensions between the two countries? And if Australia had not criticized China for issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang, would China still be critical of Australia's handling of this recent investigation?
Hua Chunying: I understand your logic. You think China's condemnation on some Australian troops' murder of Afghan civilians is linked to China-Australia relations. Well, I think you read too much into it. People are all indignant when they hear such heinous crimes of killing innocent civilians committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan, especially their brutal murder of Afghan children. China is not alone in condemning it. All people who have conscience should condemn it. This is not linked to the recent issues in China-Australia relations. This is about the discernment of right and wrong. We must uphold principles on things like this.
As you just said, there have indeed been some problems between China and Australia. The root cause is that Australia violated the basic norms governing international relations, and said and did the wrong things on issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang concerning China's core interests. China has made clear our position on multiple occasions. We hope Australia will reflect upon its words and deeds, truly uphold the spirit of mutual respect, and acknowledge and face up to the issues between China and Australia.
BBC: In the past China has always said that it doesn't get involved in other countries' affairs and also encourages others not to get involved in China's affairs. Obviously these incidents don't directly involve China; they involve Australia and Afghanistan. Does this represent a change in the attitude from the Chinese government? Perhaps we might see more comments on other issues that don't directly involve China or how should we interpret that?
Hua Chunying: Your question is not like BBC's usual style. Are you so concerned about this because you are Australian? Previously, for many so-called Chinese human rights violations that do not exist, Australia, as well as the United Kingdom where the BBC is headquartered, did not hesitate to come forward and make all kinds of accusations against China. Some Australian soldiers have committed ferocious crimes in Afghanistan. The Australian Defense Department owned up to it in their inquiry report. The facts and evidence are undeniably damning. It is no longer a matter of the internal affairs of any country, and it should be strongly condemned by all people with conscience around the whole world. Do you think otherwise? Don't you think the crimes of these Australian soldiers should be condemned? Don't you think the lack of basic sense of right and wrong on this issue on the part of Prime Minister Morrison and the Australian government should be questioned? What is wrong with China strongly condemning such brutal crimes committed by some Australian soldiers in Afghanistan? This is about human rights, but what's it to do with internal affairs?
BBC: I'm just a journalist and I'm just asking you questions. Anybody who has seen these events and the evidence would know how horrible they are. I'm sure some people would welcome it for China on the world stage to speak about many events which are not directly involving China. It is a genuine question as to whether or not we might expect more of this from China given that it is not so usual to have the Chinese government vocally speak about events that don't directly involve China.
Hua Chunying: China always speaks out loud and clear and upholds justice when it comes to violations of human conscience and international fairness and justice.
If the BBC is not biased, it should also condemn the brutal crimes committed by some Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. This is what a truly just, objective, conscientious and socially responsible media outlet should do. I also hope that the media, including BBC, should not only zoom in their lenses on human rights issues in China to find quarrel in a straw, but also broaden their horizons to human rights violations committed in some western countries, instead of turning a blind eye to them or keeping silent on some of the violations, if not all of them.
BBC: The reason we know about this is because reporters have uncovered it. Initially especially the ABC came under incredible pressure from the Australian government, including one reporter who was threatened with prison because of this. So journalists have been taking risks uncovering this horrible story. I don't quite know what more we can do other than report on it. But I'm just asking this question as a journalist, not in any way defending these actions.
Hua Chunying: I understand what you mean. By uncovering this story, I think the ABC journalists did the right thing. Behaviors that violate human rights should be exposed without hesitation. I also read Australian media reports that some Australian journalists were indeed suppressed or persecuted for revealing some bad deeds of the Australian government. But I think that falls into the category of the country's domestic affair.