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China’s top film director sued over family planning breach
Publication Date : 06-12-2013
Two lawyers filed a public interest lawsuit against film director Zhang Yimou on Thursday for his violation of the family planning policy.
They also wanted to use the suit to air their anger at the policy's failure to constrain celebrities and the rich.
Family planning authorities in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, found that Zhang fathered three children with his wife Chen Ting before they married in 2011. Under the policy, Zhang can have only one child.
Jia Fangyi, one of the two lawyers, accused Zhang of infringing upon public interests.
"The rich have become increasingly audacious by violating the family planning policy just because they are rich enough to pay the fine, ... and they take an extra share of resources from society," Jia said in a statement.
"It's unfair to the poor and those who strictly follow the national policy."
Jia filed the lawsuit with the Intermediate People's Court in Wuxi and requested the court fine Zhang 500 million yuan (US$82.1 million) in compensation for public resources and another 500 million yuan for punishment.
Guo Chengxi, the other lawyer, added that an increasing number of celebrities are flouting the family planning regulation, bringing negative social effects.
Qi Lianfeng, a lawyer with the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, said there is slim chance that the court would accept the case, as the Civil Procedure Law requires plaintiffs to be directly related to the case.
But he said the application reflects public dissatisfaction with the rich.
In an online survey by ifeng.com, 72.7 per cent of 65,000 netizens polled said they were concerned about the trend in which the wealthy violate the family planning policy.
More than half of the respondents said they believe Zhang procrastinated in responding to the public outcry toward his actions and that he apologised only under growing social pressure.
The family planning bureau in Binhu district, Wuxi, where Zhang's wife hails from, started an investigation in May. But it was not until early this month that Zhang publicly admitted having three children and apologised. He has received no punishment yet.
Gu Xiaoming, a sociologist from Fudan University in Shanghai, said Zhang should be heavily punished as he has set a bad example.
On Wednesday, Zhang responded to questions such as why he did not opt for emigration, saying "he wants his children to remain Chinese".
Some Chinese celebrities evade the family planning policy by having foreign citizenship or giving birth outside the Chinese mainland.
Meanwhile, the family planning authority in Wuxi said it is investigating how Zhang managed to get hukou, or permanent residence permits, for his three children.
According to family planning regulations in Jiangsu province, couples who violate the policies have to pay fines five to eight times the average annual income of the area where the children were born.