China Population Planners Seek Zhang Yimou Over Alleged Child Policy Breach

Nyay Bhushan
Zhang Yimou

China eased its one child policy in a recent raft of reforms, but still wants to talk to the "Hero" director about reports he had numerous children.

China has eased strict population control measures in a wide-ranging program of reforms this month, but population planners are still keen to talk to leading director Zhang Yimou about reports that he sired as many as seven children, which violates the country's "One Child Policy."

The problem is they can't find the Raise The Red Lantern director to discuss the alleged transgression, which some have speculated could mean a fine of 160 million yuan ($26.27 million).

A reform document issued after a meeting of the Communist Party elite contained changes to the One Child Policy, giving the green light to couples wanting to have two children if one of them is an only child.

However, according to several media reports, Zhang allegedly has up to seven children from his two marriages and from relationships with two other women.

In May, Zhang was named artistic director of private film company Le Vision Pictures, and the production company has been running a daily shooting blog about his latest movie, Return, which he is currently shooting in Beijing and Tianjin with Gong Li and Chen Daoming. He has not been visible in any postings of the shooting diary since earlier this month.

"After the reports emerged online that Zhang Yimou and his wife Chen Ting had more than one child, the family planning committee attached great importance to the news," an official from the family planning commission in Wuxi, where Chen is registered, told the Xinhua news agency.

"In fact, as of now, we haven’t got any satisfactory response," said the official, who said that investigators from the family planning department had been to visit Chen's home to find out more, and had even dispatched a team to his production company, LeVision, to find him.

"As far as the compensation fee that he would have to pay, which has captured everyone's attention, we can only decide the penalty based on his income according to the relevant situation. So the number published online is not exact. We can only decide after we get in touch with Zhang Yimou and Chen Ting," said the official.

News that Zhang can't be found has prompted some on the Weibo social media network to run a fake poster that says: "If anyone finds Zhang Yimou, please contact the Wuxi Family Planning Committee."

Over the course of his career, Zhang has gone from being a banned director of art-house fare, like his debut as director, Red Sorghum, to nationalist epics, such as Hero, which earned him his rehabilitation.

He further endeared himself to the authorities with his choreography for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

His 2011 WWII epic Flowers of War featured Hollywood star Christian Bale, and while it was a big hit in China, it failed to make much of an impact overseas.

Other recent works include A Simple Noodle Story, an adaptation of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple, and Under the Hawthorn Tree, a love story set during China's Cultural Revolution.