After weeks of speculation over how many offspring he has sired, Chinese film director Zhang Yimou has paid a fine of $1.23 million for having two more children than permitted under his country's One Child Policy, Chinese family planning authorities said.
Zhang has just finished shooting his latest movie, Coming Home, in Beijing and Tianjin with Gong Li and Chen Daoming. French sales outfit Wild Bunch has picked up international sales of the movie at the Berlin Film Festival.
Zhang and his wife Chen Ting admitted she gave birth to two sons and one daughter in 2001, 2004 and 2006, respectively, before they officially got married in 2011. They say they fell in love with each other in 1999.
Zhang also has a daughter with a previous partner.
"At midday on Feb. 7, the Binhu district population and family planning bureau received 7,487,854 yuan ($1.235 million) from Chen Ting and Zhang Yimou for their additional birth fee and social upbringing fee," the propaganda department in the Binhu district of Wuxi city, in eastern China, wrote on its website.
"With the payment, Chen Ting and Zhang Yimou fulfilled the requirements … and the Wuxi City Binhu district has turned this money over to the national treasury," the department said.
There have been reports that Zhang fathered as many as seven children from his two marriages and from relationships with other women in stark violation of China's longstanding One Child Policy.
Over the course of his career, the Hero director has gone from being a banned director of art house fare, like his debut as director, Red Sorghum, to nationalist epics, such as Hero, which earned him his official rehabilitation.
He further endeared himself to the authorities by directing the choreography for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.
His 2011 WWII epic Flowers of War featured Hollywood star Christian Bale, and while it was a big hit in China, it failed to make much of an impact overseas. Other recent works include A Simple Noodle Story, an adaptation of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple, and Under the Hawthorn Tree, a love story set during China's Cultural Revolution.
The Chinese government has begun to slowly ease the One Child Policy as part of a reform package to allowing families in which either parent has no siblings to have two children. The original policy was imposed more than three decades ago to prevent overpopulation in the world's most populous nation.
The Beijing government has maintained the One Child Policy because it said that population growth needed to be kept under control to allow the country to develop from a poor isolated country into the world's second-largest economy.
However, the country now faces major demographic hurdles, as the population ages quickly and the labor force starts to shrink. Often brutal enforcement of the rules, including forced abortions and sterilizations, has also made the policy extremely unpopular.
Family-planning officials reckon the recent reform will lead to two million additional births a year, raising the total number of annual births from 7 million to 9 million. The birth rate in China has hovered around 1.5 since the 1990s, well below the replacement rate.