Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

China to deport Tiananmen 'pork' artist Guo Jian, Australian officials say

updated 6:53 AM EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
  • Chinese-Australian artist Guo Jian to be deported from China
  • Guo's latest work is a pork-covered diorama of Tiananmen Square
  • Interview with the artist appeared in the Financial Times before his arrest
  • DFAT says Chinese authorities say he's being held on visa-related issues

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A Chinese-Australian artist who covered a diorama of Tiananmen Square in ground pork is to be deported from China, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Guo Jian was taken into custody last weekend, a day after The Financial Times published an interview with the artist, and photos of his latest work.

The piece, called "The Square," shows the Beijing landmark covered in 160 kilograms of ground meat.

In the accompanying FT article, Guo was highly critical of the actions of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on June 4, 1989, when troops opened fire on civilians around Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds if not thousands of people.

Artist Guo Jian's 2014 installation, "The Square", consists of a model of Beijing's Tiananmen Square covered in 160 kilograms of ground pork. Artist Guo Jian's 2014 installation, "The Square", consists of a model of Beijing's Tiananmen Square covered in 160 kilograms of ground pork.
'The Square'
Guo Jian\'s \ Guo Jian's "The Square" (2014)
'Tank Man' photographer reflects
Poetry and Tiananmen Square
Scenes from Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong

"The army is regarded as a loveable institution. But at Tiananmen I realized it's not, they will kill you if ordered to," he was quoted as saying.

'Visa-related' matter

According to a DFAT spokesman, consular officers visited Guo in Beijing on June 5. They said Chinese authorities said Guo was being held on a "visa-related matter" and would be deported after 15 days' detention.

Amnesty International's China researcher William Nee said the timing of Guo's deportation was "incredibly odd," given the artist has worked in the country for a number of years.

"It seems incredibly odd timing that right after he gives an interview that is very moving to the FT and he comes out with a very shocking and moving piece of artwork, that is the time that the government decides to detain him about a visa-related issue," Nee said.

"As far as I know, he did not leave the country or get detained for some other unrelated event. It was almost certainly due to his freedom of expression which the government did not approve of," he added.

Born in China, Guo joined the PLA in the late 1970s during a recruitment drive to support the Sino-Vietnamese war, according to his website. He was just 17 years old.

After leaving the army, Guo worked as a propaganda officer for a transport company and later studied art in Beijing. He told the FT he witnessed shooting near Tiananmen Square on the night of the massacre, and saw bodies stacked outside a local hospital.

"Walking into the hospital, walking into the emergency room packed with bodies, the smell was much stronger than in my studio. I just couldn't do anything and wanted to throw up. I was shocked, angry, sad and hopeless," he told the FT.

After the Tiananmen crackdown, Guo moved to Australia where he became a citizen and lived for 13 years.

'Don't call me'

On Monday, one of Guo's friends told CNN he'd called Guo to discuss the FT article. No one answered, but the artist texted him soon after to say he was "with police," followed by another SMS: "don't call me".

The friend said Guo was aware of the provocative nature of his work. "He's not naïve about this stuff," he said.

Prior to finishing the project, Guo asked the friend not to tell anyone about it, for fear that the authorities would stop him from working on it.

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, authorities across the country arrested a number of prominent dissidents and critics of the government.

READ: China's Tiananmen activists: Where are they now?

READ: Tiananmen 25 years on: The day I drove famed hunger strikers to safety

READ: China, the world remembers Tiananmen massacre

CNN's Euan McKirdy and David McKenzie contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:16 PM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Wilfred Chan attends a memorial service for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre held in Hong Kong.
updated 11:51 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, Beijing is business as usual, without a hint of the tragic events that took place a quarter of a century ago.
updated 10:59 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
People in Hong Kong tell CNN why they are attending the Tiananmen vigil and what they want from the Chinese government.
updated 4:20 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
Twenty-five years ago, CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz drove hunger strikers Liu Xiaobo and Hou Dejian to a safe house to escape the crackdown.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
Wang Dan, Chai Ling, and Wu'er Kaixi, the prominent student leaders of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, tell us their thoughts on China's future.
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
CNN's Steven Jiang recalls his time as a student in Shanghai during the Tiananmen crackdown.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Here's an uncomfortable truth confronting Chinese President Xi Jinping: It's 2014, but the sentiments of 1989 are still alive and well.
updated 10:31 PM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
A needle is inside the body of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, traveling along his veins and poking at his organs.
updated 11:42 PM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
You know his famous "Tank Man" image. But have you seen his other pictures from Tiananmen?
updated 1:09 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Chinese activist Hu Jia says today's youth need to know about the sacrifices made by protesters on June 4, 1989.
updated 12:03 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Chinese-Australian artist Guo Jian has been detained by Chinese authorities after unveiling this Tiananmen Square art piece.
updated 8:50 PM EDT, Sun June 1, 2014
These stunning photographs tell the story of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, as it happened.
updated 8:28 PM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
The 'CNN Effect' started with live coverage of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, 1989. Here's how it happened.
updated 2:09 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Hong Kongers took the streets to call for democracy, in an prelude to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
Andrew Stevens talks to Amnesty International's Salil Shetty about human rights in China 25 years after Tiananmen Square.
updated 2:27 PM EDT, Mon June 3, 2013
A CNN crew covering the June 5, 1989, protests in Beijing records the now iconic footage of a man stopping a tank in Tiananmen Square.
updated 3:36 AM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012
Fang Zheng, who lost his legs after a tank rolled over him in Tiananmen Square, looks back at the events of 1989.
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu July 26, 2012
Tian Hou, who was imprisoned during the Tiananmen Square crackdown two decades ago, talks to Christiane Amanpour about her career in business.
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Mon June 4, 2012
Student protests in Tiananmen Square end when Chinese troops fire on crowds, killing hundreds and wounding thousands more.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN Photojournalist Jonathan Schaer looks back at his coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests and the famous tank standoff.