BEIJING – Chinese film director Zhang Yimou and his wife could face a fine up to $1.2 million for violating the nation’s one-child policy, the official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday, now that the couple has admitted bearing three children before they married in 2011.
Zhang, 62, who has directed such films as “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers” and who oversaw the 2008 Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing, had been dogged by rumors over the summer that he had fathered up to seven children. In December, he posted a statement on his microblog account admitting that he and his wife, Chen Ting, had two sons and a daughter.
At the time, Zhang apologized for his actions and said he was cooperating with family-planning authorities in the eastern city of Wuxi. He also said he would accept any punishment.
Apparently seeking to put the matter behind them, the couple granted an interview to Xinhua over the weekend in which they again said that they had borne three children — in 2001, 2004 and 2006.
"For me and my parents, we wish to have more children as in traditional views, they could bring more happiness," Zhang told Xinhua. "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."
It was unclear exactly how much Zhang would be fined. Xinhua reported that the Binhu district health and family-planning commission in Wuxi, which investigated the case, sent a letter Saturday notifying Zhang of the fine. Details on the amount, an official told the agency, would be made public after receiving “feedback” from the couple.
However, based on estimates of Zhang’s income, a lawyer contacted by Xinhua estimated the fine could total $1.2 million.
China adopted its one-child policy in the late 1970s to moderate population growth; now, the country is rapidly aging and demographers predict a labor shortage in coming years. Recently, the government announced it would substantially relax the policy to allow families to have two children if either the mother or the father was an only child.
Violations of the policy have typically resulted in hefty fines, but forced abortions and sterilizations have also been part of the program, feeding popular resentment. Rumors of Zhang’s large family sparked anger online as people questioned whether he received special treatment from officials because of his celebrity status.
ALSO:'Flowers of War''s Zhang Yimou: Censorship limits Chinese films
Follow Julie Makinen on Twitter: @JulieMakLAT