BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese official on Friday justified the fine imposed on film director Zhang Yimou for violating family planning rules as legal.
"Local family planning authorities' handling of the case is according to law and regulation," said the National Health and Family Planning Commission's Su Zhi at a press conference, in response to questions about Zhang's highly controversial case.
He was fined 7.48 million yuan (about 1.23 million U.S. dollars) for violating the country's family planning law. He and his wife had three children before their marriage without permission for the births, local authorities in Jiangsu Province said on Thursday.
The 7.48-million-yuan "social maintenance fee," probably the largest ever handed out, still left some doubt that Zhang had taken advantage of his fame and status to receive preferential treatment.
People in China who have more children than the family planning policy stipulates are usually fined. The amount is generally decided by local authorities. Jiangsu, the province in question, fines couples who have two extra children five to eight times the annual income of both spouses combined.
In stark contrast from the sum of 7.84 million yuan, a previous calculation conducted by netizens estimated that Zhang should be fined at least 160 million yuan, considering the high box-office gross of his blockbusters such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers.
Su dismissed the debate, saying, "Zhang Yimou is a prominent artist. I hope the public can focus on his artistic work."
Only late last year, China loosened its one-child policy by allowing couples to have two children if either one of them is only child.
Before that, most urban couples could only have one child.