The Chinese artist behind a doctored image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child has taunted the Australian Prime Minister, saying that he would make another artwork in response to being “scolded”.
- Mr Fu said he created the image because he was furious over reports of SAS killings
- He said Mr Morrison should put his “attention and effort on his domestic affairs”
- His posts on Monday received over 1 million views
The image — created to criticise Australia over the damning Brereton war crimes inquiry — was posted on Twitter by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled the post “repugnant”, demanding it be removed and Beijing issue an apology.
Fu Yu — the political computer graphic artist behind the image, who is also known online as Qilin — responded to Mr Morrison’s reactions in a video shared by Chinese media on Weibo.
“I get scolded by this Australian person called Morrison, and he demands my apology,” said Mr Fu, who in the video identifies as also the owner of Beijing Wuhe Culture and Creativity Company.
“I feel sympathetic for him and fully understand Morrison’s feelings right now.
The Brereton investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Australian SAS forces found there was “credible information” to suggest they had murdered at least 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners.
Mr Fu has called himself a “wolf-warrior artist”, echoing China’s aggressive diplomacy style in recent years.
His posts on Monday received over 1 million views by over 700,000 followers on Weibo.
Mr Fu urged Mr Morrison to “make sure his Government’s military force becomes more disciplined to avoid any similar international tragedy”, and described his work as an “effort to protect mankind”.
“He should put less effort on pressuring and condemning a fact-based artwork and an artist who is ordinary and from a foreign country,” he said.
“If I have energy tonight, I can make another artwork as my response.”
The ABC has approached Mr Fu for comment.
What we know about the image
Mr Fu created the controversial computer graphic on the evening of November 22, according to China’s state-owned media Global Times.
He said he had a sense of “fury and trembling” after reading news articles about Australian soldiers’ “brutal killing of 39 civilians” in Afghanistan, including an unsubstantiated account that described how “soldiers cut the throat of two 14-year-old Afghan teenagers with knives”.
The rumoured death of the two boys, allegedly suspected of being Taliban sympathisers, was not substantiated in the findings of the four-year-long Brereton inquiry.
“I created this CG illustration based on my anger and shuddering. The artwork was simply created out of a sense of humanitarianism,” Mr Fu wrote for Global Times.
Mr Fu said he used an Australian flag to cover some bodies of the Afghanistan civilians behind the soldier, which contrasted with the little sheep in the boy’s arms.
“I hope that more people will see this painting and pay attention to this real tragedy.”
No stranger to political controversy
This is not the first time Mr Fu has been involved in a political controversy.
Earlier this year, he published his artwork Crown a Jester on Weibo, satirising Chinese writer Fang Fang, who diarised 60 daily entries about life and death in her hometown Wuhan since the unprecedented coronavirus lockdown began.
The artwork, which many netizens believed was a portrayal of Fang Fang, painted a jester kneeling to accept a crown from a foreign commander.
Mr Fu was reportedly subject to mass trolling and doxing by netizens who disagreed with the opinion reflected in the artwork, while many nationalists welcomed his works.
Chinese-Australian artist Badiucao, who is known for his political cartoons, said he was familiar with Mr Fu’s artwork.
Badiucao said Mr Fu was regarded as a “semi-official propaganda artist”, whose works were used to attack different opinions about China and welcomed by the publicity machines of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“His work is a collage of stock photos with computer processing such as the light and shadow effects in computer games,” Badiucao told the ABC.
“Beijing brought fame to him after he attacked Chinese writer Fang Fang, who documented Wuhan during the early stage of COVID-19.
“Compared to other CCP propaganda, his work clearly showed Beijing’s attempt to use a modern-aesthetic approach to upgrade its propaganda.”
Social media used to attack government
Mr Fu, who was upfront about his identity as a “patriotic artist”, made his most known works copyright-free in June, and encouraged netizens to use them on any occasion.
He wrote on Weibo that he “would do everything” to “rip out some space for more patriotic youths to openly express” their political opinions.
Tens of thousands of comments were made under the post of the official Weibo account for the Australian Embassy and Consulates, right after the official account released a bilingual transcript of Mr Morrison’s speech last night.
“Your Prime Minister is shameless. Your Government should apologise and compensate for Afghanistan!” Weibo user Lansuanshuying commented, receiving nearly 10,000 likes.
Mr Morrison called the Afghanistan President to express sorrow ahead of the release of the war crimes report.
“[Australia] is at the outskirts of the western civilisation … it’s not about Australian people, but the Government,” said Hu Xijin, editor of the CCP’s tabloid Global Times.
Badiucao said Mr Zhao’s Twitter post was part of Beijing’s propaganda campaign on social media.
“Canberra must deal with its war crimes honestly, and refuse to be silent on Beijing’s abuse of human rights.”