Authorities have begun investigating reports that Zhang Yimou , one of the mainland's best-known movie directors, has seven children in violation of the one-child policy, state media said yesterday.
Xinhua reported that family planning authorities in Wuxi, Jiangsu, where Zhang's wife lives, said they were working on an investigation report and would release the results soon.
Online reports have surfaced that Zhang, who dazzled the world in 2008 with his Beijing Olympic ceremonies, "has at least seven children and will face a 160 million yuan [HK$202 million] fine", according to some local media.
An official at the Wuxi Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission said "based on the current policies and regulations, an investigation is currently being carried out", according to a report by a news portal affiliated with the People's Daily.
It is unclear where Zhang's children were born, the report said, citing a worker at the Jiangsu Province Population and Family Planning Commission.
Both the Wuxi and Jiangsu commissions could not be reached for comment. But the online report of the People's Daily portal cited officials from both agencies as saying that the speculated amount of "160 million yuan" fine is groundless before the investigation concludes.
"However many children a person has is their basic right, but in a twisted society, basic rights have become a privilege," Beijing resident Liu Weiling, who works for a media company, wrote on Sina Weibo.
Zhang, 61, once the bad boy of Chinese cinema whose movies were sometimes banned at home while popular overseas, has since become a darling of the Communist Party. Zhang's credits include Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers and The Flowers of War.
The one-child policy still applies to 63 per cent of the mainland's population.
Reuters, Associated Press