Zhang Yimou, the famous Chinese film director and producer, released a statement through his studio on December 1 in response to allegations circulating on the Internet since May that he has seven children.
The 62-year-old director famed the world over for his many award-winning films and his direction of the dazzling opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, was accused of having seven children with four women, which is clearly a violation of China’s one-child policy and the social norm of marriage as several of these alleged seven children were born outside of wedlock.
Zhang Yimou and his current wife Chen Ting, a post-80s woman from Wuxi, who used to be a dancer. This is the first time Zhang admitted that he has remarried to Chen, who is the mother of his three children. Photo: weibo.com
In the statement addressed to the media and the public, Zhang admitted he has two sons and a daughter with his second wife Chen Ting and apologized for the “bad influence” of his behavior. He promised to cooperate with the investigation of the local Family Planning Commission of Binhu District, Wuxi, Jiangsu province. However, Zhang denied the accusations that he had seven, eight children with three, four women and that he offered a 10 million yuan reward for each child. “Those who spread the rumors will be held accountable by law,” the letter said.
Zhang could be fined as much as 570,608 yuan in what is called “social maintenance fee” for violating the policy, according to reports. The Family Planning Commission of Binhu District has urged Zhang to declare his income for the years he violated the policy so that they could calculate the exact amount of fine he should be paying.
The news, coming soon after the latest decision of the Communist Party of China to ease the one-child policy which will allow couples to have two children if one of them is an only child, has generated another round of online assault from the Weibo users, who took the opportunity to vent their frustration over the controversial policy.
A photo of Chen Ting and her three children with Zhang Yimou that has been spreading on the Internet. Photo: weibo.com
The apparent double-standard in implementing the policy is one of the top concerns of the Weibo users. “People can have as many children as they like as long as they have money,” said one comment, which is an opinion shared by many. “Isn’t it a common occurrence by now that even an ordinary family can have more than one child? Let alone someone like Director Zhang...” wrote a Weibo user from Shenyang. A woman from Guangzhou revealed that one of her colleagues has eight children.
The amount of the fine is largely brushed off by the Weibo users because “to him, the 570,000 yuan is nothing.” However, who this money goes to is of interest to them. “Is it because the end of the year is approaching and the Family Planning Commission is in need of money?” asked one user sarcastically. Some questioned the very definition of “social maintenance fee”. “How is the money used? What is it maintaining?” Others found the Family Planning Commission’s decision to ask Zhang to declare his income utterly ridiculous. “He’s already said he is going to accept the fine. Why does he have to report his income? Does the commission serve as tax bureau as well?”
“Zhang had to apologize to the public for having children with his own wife. I really cannot understand the logic，” wrote @林楚方, chief editor of a popular magazine in China. Many ordinary Chinese, on the other hand, simply found Zhang “foolish” as “most other celebrities like him have already immigrated and can have as many children as they want.”
Another celebrity, actor Liu Peiqi, made an astonishing comment which quickly attracted widespread derision. Liu thinks that the elites such as Zhang should not be confined to the one-child policy for the sake of the “quality of the Chinese nationality”. “I sincerely think that these people should have more children. We are lack of talents right now,” the actor was reported as saying.
Liu’s view was slammed by the angry Weibo users, who called it propaganda for a hierarchical society”. “It is no different to Hitler’s way of thinking!” many cried out in their comments. “If they allow the so-called “elites” to have more children today, tomorrow they will ask the poor to castrate themselves,” commented another.