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Chinese Director's Reported Seven Children Shocks Public

China's one-child policy is once again under scrutiny after mainland media revealed that famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou might have fathered seven children.

Hailed as an accomplished fifth-generation director in the country, 63-year-old Zhang, who wowed the world in 2008 with his astonishing Olympic ceremonies, finds himself the brunt of fierce criticism after media reports said he has at least seven children. Frustrated netizens thronged to social media, seizing upon the case as yet another example that privilege is what it takes for one in China to flout laws and regulations.

Zhang kept his second marriage under wraps for years and now has two sons and one daughter with a 32-year-old women from eastern Jiangsu province, Southern Metropolis Entertainment reported[zh] on May 6, 2013. Zhang is rumored to have children with another two unnamed women. The director's eldest daughter with his first wife, whom he divorced in 1988, is 30-years-old and now lives in the United States.

Zhang Yimou has so far remained silent.

The so-called one child policy was introduced in 1979 to limit population growth in China, the world’s most populous nation. While the Chinese government say a total of 400 million births would have occurred had the policy not been implemented, critics say it violates human rights and consider it to be outdated given China’s changing demographics.

Exceptions are allowed. Spouses who are both only children in their own families are given the green light to have two children. In rural areas, a second child is legal only if the first born is a girl.

China's famous movie director Zhang Yimou(Screenshot from youku)

China's famous movie director Zhang Yimou. Screenshot from youku.

Despite so, the policy still applies to nearly 63 percent of the population and has been unpopular with many Chinese, as reports of brutal forced sterilization hit news headlines in the past few years. In one example, a woman from China's northeast Shaanxi province was forced into abortion last June seven months into her pregnancy, igniting a national outcry over what many said was an atrocity committed by local family planning officials.

For those violators, a hefty fine will be imposed. Fees vary from region to region.

Xinhua, the state news agency, reported that Zhang is now being investigated for breaching the policy. But until details emerge one day on why his alleged seven children have gone unnoticed by family planning officials, the public anger is unlikely to subside.

“Fenghui Luzhuan de Fengge” vented his deep frustration [zh] on the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo:


Who doesn't violate one-child policy if he or she is a celebrity or famous person? Who dares to do it if he or she is just a common citizen? The only thing we can do is to work hard to achieve our fond dream.

Weibo user “Christopher – Gold”, who is Chinese but residing in the US, wrote [zh]:


Why China does not have the respect of the world? High-ranking officials and the wealthy are never short of mistresses, old male celebrities get divorced and change wives, CPPCC member Zhang Yimou has enjoyed his prestige, four women and seven children. While ordinary folks who would have broken the family planning policy would be tortured, or at least face heavy fines, [Zhang] is fine and [unpunished]. Ang Lee is even a bigger director, but he excels in both work and his moral standard, he earns multiple Oscars and has a lasting marriage, Old Zhang’s moral standard is not any better than ordinary folks, an unfair society will never earn respect.

Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee won a second best director Oscar for the 3D adventure “Life of Pi” in February, 2013. Responding to that criticism, another user under the name “Blinking Eyes” from Nanchang wrote [zh] hinting that a Communist mainland and a relatively democratic Taiwan, where director Ang Lee is from, might be the reasons behind the two different lifestyles of two directors:


Two different kinds of people in two systems.

“Beichan Dingxiang” concluded [zh]:


The scandal of Zhang Yimou has become a monster-revealing mirror of the loopholes of the social constitution, three wives and seven children! It fully shows the absurdity and quirkiness of the country.

“Lala Linzhi Xiaoqi” made the case [zh] that the government should bear the responsibility:


These days many people are denouncing Zhang's violation of one-child policy. First, I think one-child policy is a very controversial policy, secondly, some time ago, there were incidents in which the government forced women several month into their pregnancy to go through abortion, Zhang's children are old enough to help the family with the chores, but many details still remain murky and need to be investigated, it shows laws are made for those who don't have the prestige and money. It's the government that should be mostly denounced, not Zhang.

  • Paul Kyl

    In China, if you are rich, you are above the law.

    Just like in USA.

    • xnpu

      There’s plenty of less rich people having multiple kids. Several of my Chinese friends temporarily divorce to have the 2nd kid, then get back together. This is more affordable than it sounds as marriage in China costs only 9 kuai (less than $2).

      Shanghai is providing financial incentives for its citizens to have multiple kids for more than 4 years now. Many cities and regions in China deviate from the central policy.

      Last but not least, several Chinese billionaires have been thrown in jail. Sure you can be rich and above the law in China, but just being rich won’t cut it.

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