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China: Filmmaker Zhang Yimou fined $1.2M for breach of one-child policy

By Naomi Ng for CNN
January 10, 2014 -- Updated 0627 GMT (1427 HKT)
This file photo shows Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou attending a commercial event in Beijing in April.
This file photo shows Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou attending a commercial event in Beijing in April.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou penalized for violating China's one-child policy
  • Local authorities demand a hefty fine of 7.48 million yuan ($1.21 million)
  • Zhang apologized in December for his "excessive children."
  • Zhang and his wife admitted to having two sons and a daughter

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Oscar-nominated Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou has been fined 7.48 million yuan ($1.2 million) for breaching China's one-child policy, authorities say.

A letter sent to Zhang by the family planning bureau of Binhu District of Wuxi City, Jiangsu province in eastern China on Thursday demanded that he pay a penalty for having two "beyond-the-quota" children.

The letter was posted on the district's official account on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging service.

The fine comes after Zhang apologized in an open letter for his "excessive children" in December. He and his wife, Chen Ting, admitted to having two sons and a daughter.

READ: 'I have 3 kids,' Chinese filmmaker admits

Impact of China easing 'one child' policy
China's one child policy changes

"As a film director, it takes a lot of efforts and good movies for people to remember you, but having excessive children had ruined it all," he said, according to Xinhua, China's state news agency. "I sincerely apologize to everyone on my 'excessive children' case. I admit it's my mistake and I won't blame others for it."

"I will learn my lessons, and I'm willing to cooperate with any investigation from family planning commission," Zhang said.

Local officials in Jiangsu province calculated the fine based on the couple's combined annual income, the document stated. Nine investigation teams had been sent to "collect evidence" since November.

The couple have to pay the fine within 30 days of receiving the letter, local authorities added.

Zhang's case comes after China adopted new rules to ease its one-child policy in December.

READ: China eases one-child policy, ends re-education through labor camps

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed a resolution to allow couples to have two children if one of the parents was an only child, according to Xinhua.

Previously, a couple was only allowed a second child if both of them were only children.

However, Zhang, best known for movies such as "Red Sorghum," "Raise the Red Lantern," and "Hero," is unlikely to benefit from the change.

Zhang's breach of the policy has set off a firestorm, especially among some netizens who resent how the rich and famous in China flout rules and policies.

"Is this really a huge sum? Do you people know how much he makes from a single film? Some are saying that the fines are too heavy. All I can say is that this is nothing to him," Sina Weibo user__729_ wrote on China's equivalent of Twitter.

But Zhang also had his defenders.

"Zhang is a good fellow," wrote Sarah2007 on Sina Weibo.

"Even though the social maintenance fee is a ridiculous and shameless rip off, which no one knows what use it will be put to, he knows he has no choice, as a public figure, but to accept the fines with a with an earnest attitude."

The filmmaker also directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

READ: The girl with no identity: Being a second child in China

Opinion: China is not ending its human rights abuses

CNN's Jaime A. FlorCruz in Beijing and intern April Ma in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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