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When the crowd bays for blood

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-18 08:01

When the crowd bays for blood

Pang Li / China Daily

When the crowd bays for blood

Zhang Yimou fined 7.48 mln for birth violations

When the crowd bays for blood

Honor the past, live in the present 

China's most eminent filmmaker has become a victim - of a lynch mob that carries the banner of equality more than of a national policy whose implementation is constantly fine-tuned.

Renowned filmmaker Zhang Yimou has found himself in deep water. Not only has he been fined 7.48 million yuan ($1.24 million) for violating the family-planning policy, but many Chinese want even harsher punishment. The tidal wave of malignancy displayed online is nothing short of unsettling. It's like a virtual lynching.

Zhang has a daughter with his first wife and he bore three more children with his current wife, all in the new millennium. They did not officially tie the knot until recently, which means none of the three children were legally permitted to come into this world. Had they been registered for marriage in the first place, the first child could have been legally allowed.

The public was suspicious that Zhang used his official connections to obtain the special privilege. But it turned out the children were not registered until recent years. Without official registration, they could not have gained any official status or benefits. Theoretically they did not exist in the tally of the nation's population. Zhang rarely appeared in public with his family, and when his children got close to him, he had to run away, pretending not to know them.

It is heartbreaking to learn of these details. As a father, I know first-hand how much he would want to hold his children, both in private and in public, as a proud parent. To put on a childless facade to avoid public scourging is simply too high a price. If I were Zhang, I would have paid the penalty and made the children legal as soon as they were born.

But his apprehensions were borne out by what is happening right now. The public, or a certain segment of it, is simply not satisfied with the official penalty, which is calculated as several times the family income of the year before each "illegal" child was born. They demanded apologies, which Zhang delivered in a solemn voice in a video interview.

This, in my mind, is way across the line of propriety. It is in the realm of Red Guards toppling figures of authority under the illusion that true equality would be achieved.

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