Film Director Faces $1.2 Million in China One-Child Policy Fine

Oscar-nominated Chinese director Zhang Yimou faces a possible fine of more than 7 million yuan ($1.2 million) in the country’s biggest penalty for violations of family-planning rules, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The 62-year-old director of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony and films such as “Raise the Red Lantern” fathered two sons and one daughter with his wife Chen Ting, before the couple married in 2011, Xinhua reported. It cited lawyers working with Chinese authorities and with Zhang for the estimated size of the fine.

Implemented in 1979 to alleviate poverty, China’s family planning rules have for decades banned most couples from having more than one child. To counter an aging population and shrinking labor pool, the legislature on Dec. 28 approved a policy that will allow some parents have a second baby.

“Zhang Yimou is a public figure and people expect public figures to abide by the rules,” said Chen Yao, an associate professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

In an interview with the news agency, Zhang apologized to the public and said he was ready to take any consequences. “I have done wrong and won’t blame anyone else,” Xinhua quoted the film director as saying. Zhang already had a daughter with his ex-wife, according to the People’s Daily newspaper.

Academy Nomination

The Shaanxi, China-born Zhang is one of China’s best known directors internationally. His period drama “Ju Dou” was the first film from the mainland to be nominated for the Best Foreign language category at the Academy Awards in 1991.

Zhang has also directed several movies including “The House of Flying Daggers” in 2004, starring Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi. His most recent movie in 2011, “The Flowers of War”, starred Hollywood actor Christian Bale.

In 2012, China’s National Audit Office called for an investigation of a promotional video for the rail ministry that Zhang worked on. The ministry had paid 18.5 million yuan for the five-minute 2010 video showcasing trains and railways across China.

After a public outcry over the size of the payment, Zhang said he received an after-tax payment of 2.5 million yuan for his advice and ideas for the film and did not know how the rest of the money was spent. The ministry, which was plagued by corruption, was dismantled in March as the government sought to rein red tape and graft.

Forced Abortions

China’s government in the past has allowed a few exceptions to the one-child policy, such as permitting rural families to have a second baby if the first was a girl. Minority ethnic groups were also excluded from the restriction. Violating the one-child policy can lead to fines and has in some cases led to forced sterilizations.

In June 2012, officials in the western Chinese city of Ankang were suspended from their duties after they were accused of having forced a local woman to abort her seven-month-old fetus because she couldn’t pay a 40,000 yuan fine.

Chinese authorities from 24 provinces collected at least 2 billion yuan worth of fines related to the one-child policy in 2012, according to an article on state-linked China National Radio, which cited data collected from relevant agencies by a Zhejiang, China-based lawyer.

Fines are usually collected based on the person’s income and the average disposable income for the local city’s residents, Xinhua reported in a separate article in June.

Some offenders have also lost their jobs after flouting rules. Tian Liang, a former Olympic gold medalist on China’s national diving team, was stripped of his position at a provincial swimming administration body in April last year for having a second child with his wife in Hong Kong, according to the People’s Daily website, which cited China Youth Daily.

Zhang said in yesterday’s Xinhua report that the couple and their parents had believed that more children could bring greater happiness.

— With assistance by Liza Lin, and Jasmine Wang

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