Film director Zhang Yimou has admitted to having violated China’s one-child policy by having one girl and two boys with his wife, allegedly subjecting himself to fines that could be as high as 160 million yuan ($26 million).
In a statement published Sunday night in his weibo microblog Zhang, 63, admitted to having had three children, apologized to the public and said he would accept whatever punishment to which he may be subjected under the law. It was the first time Zhang had directly addressed questions about the number of children he has had with wife Chen Ting.
The couple have sent representatives to the family planning commission in Wuxi, Chen’s hometown, to cooperate with its investigation.
Since May, when rumors surfaced that Zhang has had seven children with four women, he was said to have been in hiding from the family planning commission. The growing public speculation about his children had turned Zhang into the villain in a national morality play about wealthy people who flaunt the one-child policy. Last Tuesday Nanjing-based Oriental Guardian newspaper had even run a front-page editorial urging Zhang to come forward to faces the charges against him.
Wuxi’s family planning commission too was feeling the heat. It was the target of an editorial by the state-owned Xinhua news agency for failing to enforce the law by finding and punishing Zhang. Its lax enforcement undermined the credibility of the local government and violated its duty to promote social equality, the editorial argued.
The commission had said that it had had sent a team to Beijing to find the director without success.
Zhang’s weibo statement alluded to those efforts, saying that someone was using illegal means to have his children followed, violating the family’s privacy. It also complained that someone was spreading false rumors that Zhang had seven or eight children with several women and that he was paying the mothers 10 million yuan for each child they delivered.
The family planning regulations of Jiangsu province in which Wuxi is located imposes on each spouse of a couple violating the one-child policy a fine equal to four times the average local disposable personal income in the year before the child is born. The fine can rise to five to eight times the local disposable personal income if the couple has two or more additional children. If the couple’s actual income is more than the average local disposable income, the amount by which it exceeds the average income will also be fined up to two times.
Zhang is generally considered China’s most successful film director. His acclaimed films include acclaimed works like Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou and Shanghai Triad, as well as commercial blockbusters like Hero and House of Flying Daggers He was also selected to stage the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Zhang’s fame and success virtually ensure that he be punished harshly to show the nation’s commitment to enforcing the law against the wealthiest and most influential citizens as well as ordinary people. Promoting social equality by ending special treatment for the rich and powerful has practically become a mantra of the central government under President Xi Jinping.