Lifestyle & Belief

Chinese film director admits violating one-child policy

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs


Film director Zhang Yimou


REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

Chinese film director Zhang Yimou issued his "heart-felt apologies" on his blog, confirming that that he has three children with his wife, in violation of China's strict one-child policy.

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"It’s big news in China, because Zhang is such a celebrity", say the BBC’s Yuwen Wu. "He directed many memorable movies, such as 'Raise the Red Lantern’ and 'Red Sorghum.' He also staged the opening ceremony of the 2008 summer Olympics."

China's one-child policy has been in place for decades as a way to control population. China loosened the policy slightly a few weeks ago.

And Zhang apparently went quite a bit over the one-child limit: "In May, reports surfaced that Zhang had actually fathered seven children with various partners," explains Wu. "People were very curious to learn whether this is true or not."

For six months, Zhang Yimou was completely silent. But now, he has published a statement in which he admits to having had three children with his new wife. Zhang apologized and said he was willing to pay a fine. He denies having fathered seven children.

Ning Hui

Ning Hui


Photo courtesy: Ning Hui

Despite the recent decision of the Chinese authorities to ease up on the one-child policy, "Zhang is in a bit of trouble now," says Wu, "because his children were born before the change and he did not ask for permission to have them."

He could be looking at quite a hefty fine because the punishment is typically related to the income of the offender. Zhang’s income is impressive and the fine could reportedly reach the astronomical amount of $40 million.

Ning Hui is a 24-year-old writer from China, and a second child in her family. She recently wrote an article in The Atlantic about what it was like being an "illegal" second child in China:

"Sometime earlier this year, my mother, a native of Zhejiang province, was shocked to learn that China’s one-child policy was not the rule of law everywhere. 'Are you saying not every country has a one-child policy?' she said.

"Hearing that made me sad. It was because of the one-child policy that my mother resorted to an illegal clinic where she had the IUD that the hospital inserted, immediately after the birth of my older brother in 1985, removed. It was because of this policy that she then hid with her relatives in another village during her next pregnancy — when she was carrying me.

"I am an unwelcome second child. The Chinese government would have preferred I had never been born. If my mom’s pregnancy was ever discovered, I would have been aborted.