“No factual basis” New Zealand expresses concern to China over fake photos

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that she is concerned with China over the use of computer-generated child-killing cartoons on Twitter by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Ardern said, “This is a post that has no basis in fact and certainly raises our concern.”

“In this case, the use of this image is factually incorrect, it is not a real picture. So we are expressing our concern directly to the Chinese authorities.”

According to the Associated Press, Ardern’s critical remarks on the matter were more tepid than Australia’s. New Zealand needs to carefully navigate between its close ally Australia and its largest trading partner, China.

On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacted strongly, saying that the Chinese government should be “ashamed” of itself, which would only allow China to belittle itself in front of the international community. He demanded that China apologize and delete the tweet immediately.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who presided over a regular press conference on Monday, sternly rejected Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s demand for an apology from China.

Morrison said the government had contacted Twitter to request that the posting be withdrawn. The tweet was tagged with a warning on Tuesday, but remained visible to the public. Zhao Lijian’s Twitter account was also signed as a Chinese government account.

Consistency and Predictability

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand maintains “consistency” and “predictability” in its dealings with China.

Previously, New Zealand was not the first to join the Australian-facilitated Crown Independence Inquiry. They later supported the inquiry and called for Taiwan’s reinstatement in the World Health Organization. However, New Zealand’s move angered China, and the Ardern government was condemned by Chinese authorities.

This month, New Zealand joined its allies Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom in calling for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

However, they avoided what happened to Australia. China has raised tariffs or imposed bans on Australian exports of coal, seafood, wine, barley and cotton, among others.

Ardern said the New Zealand government’s position on Hong Kong was “perfectly understandable and reasonable” and that the government would not stop speaking out for fear of sanctions.

Consistency and predictability are key to dealing with such issues, she said.

“We’ve expressed concern about these things in a predictable way, in different forms, whether it’s ministerial statements or bilateral dialogue.” She said, “New Zealand has acted very predictably in these areas and that’s the course of action that we take with any country concerned on issues of concern.”