China's population

Zhang Yimou asked to declare income after admitting breach of one-child policy

In an attempt to end a six-month controversy, filmmaker bows to public pressure

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 5:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 November, 2015, 4:11pm

Famed film director Zhang Yimou and his wife violated family planning rules by having three children without approval and before they were married, local authorities said yesterday.

The family planning office of Wuxi's Binhu district in Jiangsu province said in an online statement that the couple had had three children - in 2001, 2004 and 2006 in Beijing - without first seeking approval from family planning authorities, and out of wedlock. They obtained a marriage certificate in 2011, the statement said.

Zhang, 62, admitted late on Sunday having breached the provincial family planning regulations, ending months of media speculation and public debate about whether a celebrity was entitled to breach the rules.

The filmmaker said he had two sons and one daughter with his second wife, Chen Ting. He and his wife apologised for causing "adverse effects to society".

Family planning policies and the fines for breaking them vary from city to city. Some consider unmarried childbearing illegal.

The family planning office in Wuxi - where Zhang and his wife hold residency - asked the 62-year old filmmaker to disclose his income to calculate the fine, the provincial daily Yangtse Evening Post reported yesterday.

Last night's Binhu government statement quoted an unnamed spokesman as saying it hoped Zhang and Chen would continue to co-operate with family planning authorities and truthfully report their income.

The director of classics such as Red Sorghum and blockbusters such as Hero said in a statement Sunday that he would co-operate with the investigation and accept his punishment. Zhang's office rejected reports that he had fathered more children.

Zhang and his wife could each be fined eight to 10 times the average annual income of a Wuxi resident in the year before the birth of the child, said Zhang Zhouhang, a local lawyer specialising in family issues, citing provincial family planning regulations. Last year, the local average income was 35,663 yuan (HK$45,400), according to the Wuxi Statistical Bureau. Such a fine would still be minuscule compared with the 160 million yuan estimated by state media in May, when the controversy first erupted.

Zhang has sent representatives to the family planning commission, the authority said last week in a weibo post.

For Leta Hong Fincher, author of the upcoming book Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China, Zhang's affluence shields him from official intrusion into his private life.

"If you are wealthy, it is very easy to pay a fine and have another child," she said.

The controversy comes as plans to relax the one-child policy are being finalised. The policy change announced at the third plenum will allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.

Demographer Wang Feng said the problem was an outdated policy, not Zhang.

Additional reporting by Associated Press.