BEIJING, May 14, 2013 ( – Family planning agents are investigating China’s most famous film director for reportedly having seven children with four women. If guilty of breaking China’s laws, Zhang Yimou could face $27 million in fines.

Zhang designed the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. His films, like Raise the Red Lantern, have won international acclaim.

Reports of his multiple children surfaced in online discussions after an article mentioned Zhang and his current wife have two sons and a daughter. Online speculators say he has 3 other children by several other women.


China’s harsh penalties for breaching the one-child policy range from jail, losing jobs, forced sterilizations and abortions, destroying homes, and heavy fines reaching twice the parents’ annual income.

Couples in cities are limited to one child. Those in rural areas can have two children if the first is a girl.

Zhang’s case unleashed public anger over the unequal enforcement of the law.

“It is just a policy for limiting the poor’s right to give birth,” said one critic online, reported The Guardian.

“Why doesn’t China have the world’s respect? Look at the rich and officials with flocks of wives and mistresses … If ordinary people had more children they would be punished or fined to death. He is fine,” wrote another blogger.

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Despite recurring rumors that China will ease up on its one-child rules, Chinese officials cling to the policy, regularly citing it as key to their economic success.

China faces an impending demographic crash with too few workers for each dependent child or old person. The one-child limit and a preference for sons has resulted in more men than women.

China issued an edict in 2007 to address gender imbalance as a major “threat to social stability.” Unwed women are pressured to marry to reduce the number of unmarried men. Those in their late 20′s are stigmatized in media and government programs for “failure to find a husband” because of an “overly high expectations for marriage partners.”

This article originally appeared on the website of and is reprinted with permission.