BEIJING - Top Chinese film director Zhang Yimou is facing a billion-yuan lawsuit after violating the country's controversial one-child policy, state media reported Friday.
Zhang's case has brought renewed debate over what critics say is the selective enforcement of China's late-1970s family-planning law, which restricts most couples to one child but is frequently flouted by the wealthy and well-connected.
Two lawyers filed a lawsuit Thursday in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, the hometown of Zhang's wife, suing the director of "Red Sorghum" and "Raise the Red Lantern" for a total of one billion yuan (S$205 million).
"The rich have become increasingly audacious by violating the family planning policy just because they are rich enough to pay the fine... and they take an extra share of resources from society," one of the lawyers, Jia Fangyi, said in a statement reported by state-run newspaper China Daily.
"It's unfair to the poor and those who strictly follow the national policy," he added
The two lawyers are claiming 500 million yuan in "compensation for public resources" and another 500 million yuan in punitive damages, the China Daily said.
Zhang, one of China's best-known filmmakers and the director of the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had faced rumours for months that he had fathered as many as seven children with several different women.
Amid increasing pressure - including a Nanjing newspaper's publication last month of a front-page "wanted" poster seeking information on his whereabouts - Zhang finally issued an apology on Sunday through his studio's microblogging account.
He acknowledged that he has two sons and a daughter with his current wife, as well as another daughter with his ex-wife.
Chinese media reports have speculated that Zhang could face a penalty as high as 160 million yuan, but authorities have not released any figures.
Fines for violators of China's one-child policy are a significant source of income for China's provincial governments.
In 2012, 24 of the country's 31 provinces and regions collected a total of nearly 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in penalties, the Beijing News reported Thursday. None of the provincial authorities has detailed how the money was spent.