BEIJING, China - Famed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou is being sued by two lawyers for breaking China's one-child policy, in what they say is a protest against rich people flouting the rules.
Jia Fangyi said Friday he and Guo Chengxi want Zhang to pay 1 billion yuan ($164 million) in compensation for the use of public services and as a punishment. Although Zhang already faces a fine that could run into the millions of dollars, Jia said he and Guo didn't feel that was enough to deter other wealthy people from defying the regulations.
"We made the move because the government failed to fulfil its duty in protecting the public interest," Jia said in a telephone interview. "We believe that more and more rich people in China are having more children with money, therefore leaving a destructive effect on China's efforts to control population."
People caught breaking China's family planning policy must pay a "social compensation fee" based on their annual income.
Zhang, who directed "House of Flying Dragons" and "Hero," admitted Sunday to having three children with his wife, Chen Ting. Local authorities in the eastern city of Wuxi, where his wife is from, said the births came without approval and before the two were married.
The couple issued an apology to the public for the "negative social impact that this has created."
Reports had circulated online since May that Zhang, 62, had fathered seven children from two marriages and relationships with two other women. The People's Daily newspaper, published by the ruling Communist Party, reported that Zhang could face a fine of up to 160 million yuan ($26 million).
Chinese media reports said the lawsuit had little chance of succeeding because the two lawyers were not directly related to the case. Calls to the Wuxi Intermediary Court where it was filed rang unanswered.
Jia declined to rate his chances of success, saying only that, "We hope the court could handle the case in an innovative way and the public continue to monitor the development of the incident."
Zhang is one of China's most famous film directors, most recently of "The Flowers of War" starring Christian Bale. He also designed the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.