Zhang Yimou under probe amid reports he has seven kids

Reuters, BEIJING

Fri, May 10, 2013 - Page 6

Chinese authorities have begun investigating reports that Zhang Yimou (張藝謀), one of China’s best-known movie directors, has seven children, in violation of strict family planning rules, which could result in a fine of 160 million yuan (US$26.05 million), state media said yesterday.

Online reports have surfaced that Zhang, who dazzled the world in 2008 with his Beijing Olympic ceremonies, “has at least seven children and will face a 160 million yuan fine,” said the Web site of the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece.

An unnamed official at the Wuxi Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission said “based on the current policies and regulations, an investigation is currently being carried out,” the report said.

It is unclear where Zhang’s children were born, the report said, citing a worker at the Jiangsu Province Population and Family Planning Commission.

Neither the Wuxi nor the Jiangsu Population and Family Planning Commission could be reached for comment.

Zhang, 61, once the bad boy of Chinese cinema, whose movies were sometimes banned at home while popular overseas, has since become a darling of the CCP, despite long being a subject of tabloid gossip for alleged trysts with his actresses.

Zhang’s newest project, a film to depict wartime Nanjing under Japanese occupation starred Hollywood actor Christian Bale in a leading role.

There are signs that China may loosen the one-child policy, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiraling out of control.

The policy has long been opposed by human rights groups, but is also now regarded by many experts as outdated and harmful to the economy.

In December, authorities in Guangdong said they were investigating a family for having given birth to octuplets through in-vitro fertilization, a case that sparked intense public debate about China’s one-child policy and how wealthy families were able to circumvent the rules.

The one-child policy was meant to last only 30 years and there are now numerous exceptions to it. However, it still applies to about 63 percent of the population.