BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese director Zhang Yimou has admitted flouting his country's strict family planning rules by having three children with his wife, but rejected rumors that he had fathered seven children with several women.
Zhang's office issued an open letter through its verified microblog account on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo site late Sunday saying the director and his wife, Chen Ting, have two sons and a daughter, in violation of China's one-child limits.
Zhang and his wife "expressed their sincere apology to the public for the negative social impact that this has created," the letter said.
This is the first time Zhang, 62, has responded to reports that circulated online in May that the director of "The Flowers of War," starring Christian Bale, had seven children from two marriages and relationships with two other women.
At the time, the People's Daily newspaper, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, reported that Zhang could face a fine of up to 160 million yuan ($26 million). People caught breaking China's family planning policy must pay a "social compensation fee" based on their annual income.
The letter said Zhang and his wife were willing to be investigated by the family planning committee in Chen's hometown, the eastern city of Wuxi, and would accept whatever penalty the couple might incur. It did not provide details on how the couple had been able to evade family planning authorities thus far.
Officials from the family planning office of Wuxi's Binhu district told state media Sunday that the couple had sent representatives to the office to accept an investigation and that it was under way.
But Zhang's office also rejected reports that he had fathered more children. It said unidentified individuals with "ulterior motives" had sent people to follow Zhang's children and photograph them and that Zhang's office reserved the right to take legal action.
Known to many as China's one-child policy, the rules limit most urban couples to one child and allow two children for rural families if their firstborn is a girl. The government introduced the policy in 1979 as a temporary measure to curb a surging population, but it is still in place despite being reviled by many citizens.
Last month, the party announced that it would allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is a single child, the first substantial easing of the one-child policy in nearly three decades.
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