Zhang Yimou Rep: Chinese Director Didn't Breach One Child Policy

Joe Pugliese
Chinese director Zhang Yimou

The "Hero" director abided by the country's family planning rules, his spokesman says, and demands an apology from a weekly publication.

A spokesman for Chinese director Zhang Yimou has denied that the director broke Chinese family planning rules, demanding an apology from a magazine for accusing him of siring seven children with multiple women.

China has eased strict population control measures in a wide-ranging program of reforms this month, but population planners are reportedly seeking Zhang about reports that he fathered as many as seven children from his two marriages and from relationships with other women in violation of the country's long-standing One Child Policy. That policy is being somewhat loosened under the planned reforms, allowing for a second child if one partner is an only child.

"Firstly, Zhang Yimou and [current wife] Chen Ting registered for marriage after the first child was born," Zhang's spokesman Chen Jian wrote on social media platform Sina Weibo. "There were three children in total -- Zhang Yinan, Zhang Yiding and Zhang Yijiao." 

The spokesman said the couple was permitted another child under family planning rules, as the first child was visually impaired.

"Then, under later One Child Policy rules, it is legal to have a second child if one of the couple is an only child, and Chen Ting is an only child. So the youngest daughter is also not an 'extra child,' " said Chen.

The spokesman added: "Zhang Yimou bought an apartment for his wife Chen, got the residence permit for them and made all the proper arrangements with the police."

He also accused the Southern Entertainment Weekly magazine of spreading "shocking" rumors.

"Southern Entertainment Weekly made it up that Zhang Yimou has seven children with three or four women, which makes Zhang into a serious bigamist. They are the biggest rumor spreaders, and their behavior is shocking," Chen wrote, accusing the publication of breaking numerous press rules.

"Therefore, I want the person who is responsible from Southern Entertainment Weekly to apologize to Zhang Yimou publicly…otherwise, the Southern Entertainment Weekly will face suspension from publication," said the director's spokesman.

He also urged the media to stop asking the Wuxi Family Planning Committee, which had said amid media requests that it would look into his family situation, to make Zhang's private affairs public.

"The government has a duty to protect a citizen's basic privacy. No matter how the media push them, the Wuxi Family Planning Committee can't respond," the spokesman said.

The comments did not refer to other reports that the Raise the Red Lantern director could face a fine of 160 million yuan ($26.27 million) if found in violation of any family planning rules in China.

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

Over the course of his career, the Hero director has gone from being a banned director of arthouse fare, like his directing debut 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 a box-office 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.