Director Zhang Yimou, best known internationally for martial-arts epics like Hero, and House of Flying Daggers as well as the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics, is facing a fine of more than a million dollars for violating China’s recently amended one-child policy. The Guardian reports:
Zhang said he and his wife, Chen Ting, were ready to make a public apology for having three children. The couple denied abuse of privilege and said they wanted more offspring for traditional reasons, and because the births brought happiness to themselves and their parents.[…]
The director…has been at the centre of stories that he allegedly fathered as many as seven children from his two marriages and other relationships.
Zhang isn’t the first Chinese celebrity to face a scandal like this. Hao Haidong, widely considered China’s best-ever soccer player, was fined for having a second child in 2008. Cases like his led authorities to raise the fines—formerly set at 10 times the local per capita income. The 50,000 yuan ($8,240) fine paid by Hao didn’t exactly break the bank for an athlete making more than 5 million yuan per year.
In addition to simply paying the fines, wealthy Chinese mothers have often been able to skirt the rule by traveling abroad to give birth. NBC reported two years ago on the emergence of “birth tourism” centers in the United States catering to arrivals from China. (The topic of birth tourism even provided the backdrop for a recent hit Chinese rom-com.)
The contrast of cases like these to those of poor rural women forced by local officials into having abortions after failing to pay fines are one of the factors that have driven opposition to the law: the one-child policy has long appeared to be a law only for those who can’t afford to get around it. Zhang’s 7 million yuan fine will hurt, though it could have been a lot worse for him.
The Chinese government amended the policy in November, allowing most couples to have two children, though this seems unlikely to quell anger over it’s unequal application.