RULE BREAKER

Film di­rec­tor ad­mits vi­o­lat­ing fam­ily plan­ning reg­u­la­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CANG WEI in Nan­jing and XU WEI in Bei­jing

Fam­ily plan­ning au­thor­i­ties con­firmed on Mon­day that film di­rec­tor Zhang Yi­mou fa­thered three chil­dren out of wed­lock, end­ing months of spec­u­la­tion that he had fa­thered as many as seven chil­dren by var­i­ous moth­ers.

Zhang ad­mit­ted to hav­ing three chil­dren with his cur­rent wife, Chen Ting, and he apol­o­gized on Sun­day evening in a state­ment posted on his stu­dio’s mi­cro blog.

The apol­ogy came amid grow­ing con­cerns about whether celebri­ties like Zhang can dodge the pun­ish­ments of fam­ily plan­ning laws.

The fam­ily plan­ning au­thor­ity in the Binhu dis­trict of Wuxi, Jiangsu prov­ince, which is the home­town of Zhang’s wife, an­nounced on Mon­day evening that Zhang fa­thered three chil­dren — in 2001, 2004 and 2006 — with his cur­rent wife be­fore their mar­riage in 2011.

The au­thor­ity said it wel­comed the re­sponse from Zhang’s stu­dio, as well as Zhang’s co­op­er­a­tion in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We hope that the party in­volved will con­tinue to co­op­er­ate with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ac­cu­rately de­clare his in­come in the birth year of each child. We will han­dle the case ac­cord­ing to the law and in time will an­nounce the re­sult,” an of­fi­cial with the fam­ily plan­ning bureau in Binhu dis­trict said in an online state­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to fam­ily plan­ning reg­u­la­tions in Jiangsu prov­ince, cou­ples who give birth be­fore their mar­riage is reg­is­tered face the same fines as mar­ried cou­ples who vi­o­late the fam­ily plan­ning poli­cies — five to eight times the av­er­age an­nual in­come of the area in which the chil­dren were born.

If a cou­ple’s an­nual in­come is more than dou­ble the area’s av­er­age in­come, the cou­ple will be sub­ject to ad­di­tional fines. The amount of any fine de­pends on the par­tic­u­lar county or city that has ju­ris­dic­tion.

Chen Yuan, a fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy lawyer from Pingji Center in Guangzhou, said the cou­ple in this case are un­likely to face a huge fine of 160 mil­lion yuan ($26 mil­lion), as pub­lished in some me­dia re­ports.

“If Zhang and Chen’s in­come in 2012 ex­ceeded two times the av­er­age yearly in­come of lo­cal peo­ple, they will pay ad­di­tional fines, which is one or two times the av­er­age yearly in­come,” Chen said.

“Com­pared to Zhang’s in­come, the amount of money is not large,” he added.

In 2012, the av­er­age yearly in­come of Wuxi res­i­dents liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas was 35,663 yuan.

An au­thor­ity with Wuxi’s com­mis­sion of pop­u­la­tion and fam­ily plan­ning who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said that it is dif­fi­cult to in­ves­ti­gate celebri­ties’ in­comes be­cause of the coun­try’s faulty tax­a­tion sys­tem, and Zhang, there­fore, may not be fined in ac­cor­dance with his real in­come.

“The com­mis­sion is urg­ing Zhang to de­clare his real in­come for the years when his three chil­dren were born in or­der to cal­cu­late an ac­cu­rate fine,” the source said.

South­ern Me­trop­o­lis En­ter­tain­ment Weekly re­ported that Zhang, 62, had at least seven chil­dren by sev­eral women — an ex-wife, two mis­tresses and Chen, a for­mer dancer who is 31 years his ju­nior.

In the state­ment posted on the stu­dio’s mi­cro blog, Zhang de­nied that he had seven chil­dren and said that “some peo­ple with ul­te­rior mo­tives” fol­lowed his chil­dren for two years and fab­ri­cated ru­mors that “se­verely in­ter­fere with the daily lives” of his fam­ily mem­bers.

The in­ci­dent has caught pub­lic at­ten­tion more than other cases of fam­ily plan­ning vi­o­la­tions as it ex­poses the so­cial di­vide be­tween rich and poor and fu­els con­cerns that the pol­icy has lost its con­strain­ing ef­fect on celebri­ties, ex­perts say.

“Zhang’s vi­o­la­tion of the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy was ini­tially a per­sonal is­sue. The rea­son it has drawn so much at­ten­tion is that peo­ple are con­cerned that celebri­ties can over­ride the law and dodge pun­ish­ment,” said Lu Jiehua, a pro­fes­sor of de­mog­ra­phy at Pek­ing Univer­sity.

Lu said the in­ci­dent could also have an ad­verse ef­fect on com­pli­ance, which is high among gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees who fear they could lose their jobs af­ter a vi­o­la­tion.

“This in­ci­dent shows that the pol­icy is not equally ef­fec­tive for celebri­ties,” Lu said. “Nor is it ef­fec­tive for mi­grant work­ers, the self-em­ployed or peo­ple liv­ing in re­mote ar­eas, to my knowl­edge.”

China’s fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy has been in place for more than three decades. Most cou­ples have been re­stricted to only one child since 1980.

But the pol­icy has been loos­ened over time. A sec­ond child was al­lowed, for ex­am­ple, for some ru­ral fam­i­lies whose first child was a girl, as well as for eth­nic groups and for cou­ples who are both only chil­dren.

The pol­icy was fur­ther re­laxed last month, when the Third Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee de­cided that if just one spouse is an only child, the cou­ple may have two chil­dren.

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