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Chinese director Zhang Yimou pays $1.23 million for violating one-child policy

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Zhang Yimou, the director behind Hero and House of Flying Daggers and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony, has paid $1.23 million for violating China's family planning laws. According to a verified Sina Weibo account for Zhang's local district in Wuxi, he and wife Chen Ting paid around 7.5 million yuan ($1.23 million) to the local family planning bureau on February 7th. The cost covers an unplanned birth and social maintenance fee for the two children that the couple raised in violation of the country's one-child rules — Zhang and Chen have two sons and one daughter.

While the 35-year-old policy includes some exceptions for rural couples and has been loosened as part of larger legal changes, Zhang admitted to the charges in December of 2013, offering the public "heartfelt apologies." He also, however, denied rumors that he had fathered up to seven children with several women. Wuxi authorities had reportedly spent months preparing a formal investigation.

In a statement, authorities said that the payment had satisfied the fine and had been turned over to the national treasury. This 7.5 million yuan payment is much less than the 26 million yuan charge that Zhang could reportedly have faced. Separately, a pair of lawyers in Wuxi have also filed a 1 billion yuan ($164 million) lawsuit against the director, asking for punitive damages and compensation for public resources. The suit reflected anger over the perceived unfairness of wealthy couples getting around the one-child policy: "The rich have become increasingly audacious by violating the family planning policy just because they are rich enough to pay the fine," said lawyer Jia Fangyi.