China hunts director Zhang, suspecting violation of one-child policy

November 20, 2013
Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov and Chinese director Zhang Yimou present the Tiantan Award of Best Film during the closing ceremony of the Beijing International Film Festival
Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov (L) and Chinese director Zhang Yimou present the Tiantan Award of Best Film during the closing ceremony of the 3rd Beijing International Film Festival in Beijing April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities have been unable to locate Zhang Yimou, one of China's best-known movie directors, to investigate allegations that he has breached China's one-child policy, the state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.

In May, online reports surfaced that Zhang, who dazzled the world in 2008 with his Beijing Olympic ceremonies, had at least seven children and could be liable for a 160 million yuan ($26.3 million) fine, Xinhua said.

State media said then that the family planning agency in the southerly city of Wuxi - where Zhang's wife, Chen Ting, is from - was investigating the case.

Xinhua said the Wuxi Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission "has done everything possible to contact Zhang Yimou and Chen Ting and dispatched a work team that rushed to Beijing to look for Zhang Yimou, but there were no results, they could not find (him)".

Local family planning officials said they had sent a dozen letters to the Beijing Film Group and the Guangxi Film Group to contact Zhang, according to Xinhua.

"In fact, at this point, we have not received a satisfactory reply," said an unnamed representative from the Wuxi commission, according to Xinhua.

"No matter who is involved, illegal births will have to be dealt with in accordance with the law."

Zhang, 61, once the bad boy of Chinese cinema, whose movies were banned at home but popular overseas, has since become a darling of the Communist Party, despite long being a subject of tabloid gossip for alleged trysts with his actresses.

The government said last week that it would allow couples to have a second child if one of the parents was an only child. It was the most significant relaxation of its population control regime in nearly three decades.

($1 = 6.0927 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Kevin Liffey)