Zhang Yimou Contests Fine for Breaking China's One Child Policy

Zhang Yimou
Nyay Bhushan

The director, who admitted last month to having three kids, is disputing the estimate of his earnings, which will determine the size of his fine.

Embattled Chinese director Zhang Yimou is contesting the size of the fine he will have to pay for breaking the country's one-child policy.

Last month, Zhang publicly admitted to fathering three children with his wife, Chen Ting, a violation of the country's long-standing family planning policies.

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A lawyer for one of China's health and family planning commissions in the city of Wuxi, which is investigating the case, told state-backed news source Xinhua that Zhang's earnings in 2000, 2003 and 2005 were 3.6 million yuan ($590,000) annually, which could result in a fine of as much as $1.2 million (7.3 million yuan), according to a Beijing-based lawyer cited by the news outlet.

Zhang and Chen submitted a document last week contesting the official estimate of his income, officials revealed via the family planning office's official Weibo account. The government's official estimate has not been released, as the case is still pending.

Zhang, one of China's most celebrated directors, began his career making edgy arthouse fare that was often banned by the country's censors (Red Sorghum, 1987). But he went on to direct some of China's most successful nationalist epics (Hero, 2002). He later cemented his status as a top establishment figure by directing the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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Before Zhang's confession in December, local media reports speculated that he might have fathered as many as seven children. The stories caused a wave of outrage on Chinese social media, where many describe the situation as just another example of the way the rules don't seem to apply to the rich and well connected in the new materialist China.

China's family planning policy was introduced in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two if the first child was a girl. People who have more children have been subject to heavy fines.

In November, Chinese authorities announced that they would be relaxing the one child policy, allowing families to have two children if one parent is an only child. But the news came too late for Zhang.

"My father told me prior to his death that he hoped I could have a son to continue the family line, and my mother also believed that with more children, they could have more companions," Zhang told Xinhua when he came clean in December.

He admitted the wrongdoing and said he was ready to accept the consequences.

"As a public figure, my wife and I must assist the sweeping investigations by the family planning authorities and also are willing to make a public apology," he added.

Zhang is currently shooting his latest movie, Return, in Beijing and Tianjin with Gong Li and Chen Daoming.

An official from the family commission told newspaper China Daily that it will reply to Zhang's challenge of the salary estimate in due time and levy the fine according to the law.