Acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou has apologized for violating China’s one-child family planning policy in his first public appearance following revelations he had fathered four children.
Film director Zhang Yimou [File photo]
It has been estimated he faces a fine of at least 7 million yuan (US$1.15million) for the extra births.
“I sincerely apologize for extra births to all of you. I indeed did wrong. I wouldn’t blame others,” 63-year-old Zhang said during a TV interview with Xinhua news agency.
“I have learnt the lesson. I am willing to cooperate with the investigation of Wuxi family planning authority to give the public a result as soon as possible,” he said.
“For me and my parents, we wish to have more children as, in traditional views, they could bring more happiness,” Zhang said.
“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.”
He added: “Whatever the excuses are, I have to admit my wrongdoings and take all the consequences.”
Online reports surfaced in May that Zhang, who dazzled the world in 2008 with his Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, had three children with his current wife Chen Ting, though he and his ex-wife Xiao Hua already had a daughter.
Over the next seven months, the couple remained silent.
“We were unprepared and didn’t know how to respond after seeing the reports,” Chen told Xinhua. “Zhang was busy shooting a film and we didn’t have enough time to communicate.
“I had thought our response would affect our life and his career,” she said, adding that, finally, they decided to face the public.
In an open letter on December 1, Zhang for the first time admitted he and Chen had two sons and a daughter.
A day later, the family planning commission in Wuxi, a city in eastern Jiangsu Province and Chen’s hometown, confirmed that the children were all born out of wedlock and in violation of the family planning policy.
The couple registered their marriage in September 2011, but their children were born in 2001, 2004 and 2006 in Beijing, an initial investigation showed.
Chen told Xinhua that they didn’t register their marriage earlier because they were worried Zhang’s identity could be exposed during the process.
It is estimated that Zhang might have to pay at least 7 million yuan — the highest fine in China so far, Xinhua said.
A lawyer for the family planning commission in Wuxi said Zhang’s earnings in 2000, 2003 and 2005 totalled 3.6 million yuan.
Zhang only disputed part of the earnings, or around 500,000 yuan, in 2005. After calculations based on the combined household income, Zhang could be fined some 7.3 million yuan, said Li Wei, an executive partner at the Fada law office in Beijing.
A Wuxi family planning commission official said the agency wrote to Zhang about the fine on Saturday.
The official, who asked not to be named, said details of the punishment would be unveiled after feedback from the couple.
Zhang, one of China’s best-known film directors, made his directorial debut in 1987 with “Red Sorghum” and his other films include “Raise the Red Lantern,” “The Road Home” and “House of Flying Daggers.”
China’s family planning policy, introduced in the late 1970s to rein in population growth, limits most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two.
The one-child policy has since been relaxed. It now allows couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.