China is refusing to apologise to Australia for an inflammatory image posted to Twitter by a senior official, with the Middle Kingdom's state media instead saying Scott Morrison is taking the two countries' relations "into the abyss".
The Australian Prime Minister held a media briefing on Monday where he called an image posted online by China's foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian "repugnant". He said the Chinese Government should be "utterly ashamed" and demanded an apology from Beijing.
The digitally altered image, which is currently pinned to the top of Zhao's Twitter account, purports to show an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
It is captioned: "Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts & call for holding them accountable".
The post comes after a report alleged Australian special forces unlawfully killed 39 Afghans, something Morrison has called "disturbing".
The report makes mention of a 2016 document where a sociologist claims to have heard that two 14-year-old boys were killed by soldiers. ABC says those allegations were "never substantiated".
Asked about Morrison's Monday comments, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying didn't apologise, instead pointing to the "shocking and appalling" details in the report.
"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!"
Morrison has reportedly called Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to express his "deepest sorrow" for the misconduct while the chief of the Australian Defence Force has apologised to the central Asian country.
There has also been an onslaught of anti-Australia articles published in Chinese state media overnight.
Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times, wrote that he was "shocked and disgusted".
"How could this Australian PM be so ridiculously arrogant to pick on Chinese FM spokesperson's condemnation against the murder of innocent people? Is the murder fake news?"
He then makes the incredible suggestion that the Australian Prime Minister "kneel down on the ground, slap himself in the face and kowtow to apologise to Afghans" on a live telecast.
"No matter what harsh words people use on them for the murder, the Australian government should have accepted it. How dare they talk back and say they are offended!"
Hu says Australian troops should leave Asia and "run as far as they can".
Other articles found on the state media outlet's website call Australia "evil", say the nation is a "warhound" of the US and should keep away from China's coastal areas "or else it will swallow the bitter pills", and accuse Australia of being hypocritical for accusing China of human rights breaches.
"Killing innocent people is trampling on human rights no matter what. But Canberra has the nerve to put itself on the moral high ground of human rights. How arrogant and shameless the Morrison government is!"
Relations between China and Australia have soured significantly over the last year, especially in the wake of Australia calling for an inquiry into the origin of COVID-19 in the Middle Kingdom. Australia has also been vocal in criticising Beijing for its imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
China has bitten back by taking a number of actions on trade and exports. For example, on Friday, China announced it would impose temporary tariffs of up to 212.1 percent on wine imported from Australia.