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Zhang Yimou probed for having 'several children'

By WANG XIAODONG in Beijing and CANG WEI in Nanjing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-10 01:07

Authorities are investigating online allegations that one of China's most recognized movie directors, Zhang Yimou, has violated the country's family planning policy.

"A team has been dispatched to deal with the case, and a report will be released to the public as soon as possible," an official with Wuxi city's commission of population and family planning, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told China Daily on Thursday.

Zhang, winner of several top awards and the director of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is one of China's most famous filmmakers.

His latest movie, The Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale, was about the Japanese army's rampage through Nanjing in 1937.

Zhang Yimou probed for having 'several children'

Recent claims circulating online say Zhang has seven children, and he could face up to 160 million yuan ($26 million) in fines if it proves to be true, the People's Daily reported.

Violators of the family planning policy must pay a certain amount of fines based on their annual income and the average income for the previous year in the places where they reside.

China's family planning policy, which has been in place since the 1970s, limits most urban families to one child and allows rural couples to have a second child if the first one is a girl.

Although the claims surrounding Zhang started to circulate online only recently, many residents in Wuxi - a city in Jiangsu province where Zhang's second wife, Chen Ting, lives - say they had heard Zhang has several children.

"Many people know Zhang has three children with Chen in Wuxi," said a resident surnamed Xie who lives in the city's Nanchang district. He added that Chen's children go to an expensive private kindergarten downtown.

On Thursday, Modern Express in Nanjing reported that Wuxi's population and family planning commission denied that authorities have launched an investigation.

According to the commission official, it was only informed about the news after media reports and it is trying to collect more information at the moment.

"There is a very complicated procedure needed before an investigation is launched, including participation from police," the official said.

Reports of celebrities or the rich breaking the family planning law in China are not rare, and they often spark anger among the public.

For example, Tian Liang, an Olympic gold medalist and former member of the Chinese diving team, stepped down last year from a post at a provincial sports bureau for having a second child in Hong Kong.

"It's unfair that rich people or celebrities can have more children if they want," one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo, the popular micro-blogging service in China. "Family planning policy should be strict for all people."

China will continue to adhere to the family planning policy and improve it gradually for balanced population growth, said Li Bin, minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

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