China’s military has become an untouchable nationalist symbol. Artists and comedians are finding out the hard way

Hong Kong (CNN) — For two decades, Yue Minjun’s grinning self-portraits have been celebrated as one of the most recognizable icons of Chinese contemporary art.

His pink-skinned caricatures, frozen in hysterical laughter in various settings and posing as people from all walks of life, including military personnel, have smashed auction records and been shown at galleries and exhibitions around the world.