Top Chinese director Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) has said he violated the country’s outgoing one-child policy because of the traditional belief that having multiple children would lead to greater prosperity, state media have said.
After months of rumors that he had fathered as many as seven children with several different women, Zhang issued an apology on Dec. 1 acknowledging that he has two sons and a daughter with his current wife, as well as another daughter with his ex-wife.
Zhang, who faces a penalty largely based on his and his wife’s income in the years before each child was born, also claimed that one year, he only earned US$450.
In an interview with Xinhua news agency on Sunday, the director of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies said he broke the law because his father told him before dying that he wanted a grandson to “carry on the family name.”
“Traditionally, my parents and I thought the more children one has, the more prosperous the family would be,” he was quoted as saying.
Previous Chinese media reports have speculated the fine could be as high as 160 million yuan (US$26 million) and some lawyers are demanding 1 billion yuan from the director of Red Sorghum (紅高粱) and Raise the Red Lantern (大紅燈籠高高掛). Yet according to documents Zhang provided, his total income in 2000 was only 2,760 yuan, Xinhua said.
“A film director’s income is irregular — there are good years and there are bad years,” Zhang was quoted as saying.
His total income in the relevant years came to 3.6 million yuan, the report said, adding that his spouse is a housewife.
That would put the fines at more than 7 million yuan, which would be the highest-ever for such offenses, a lawyer in Beijing estimated, according to Xinhua.
Zhang has come under mounting criticism for taking advantage of his fame and wealth, but said his family had suffered because they had broken the rules.
“We were hiding here and there as ‘extra-birth guerrillas,’” Zhang said, referring to a TV show about a couple who go on the run to have multiple babies. “My fault has negatively affected my children’s childhood significantly.”