Acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou must pay a 7.5m yuan (£750,000) fine for breaking China's strict family planning laws, local authorities have announced. Officials said he had three children with his now wife, Chen Ting , without approval and before the couple married in 2011. Zhang, 61, became an international star with films such as Raise the Red Lantern and To Live. In recent years he has become an establishment figure and acted as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics. Binhu district government, in Chen's hometown of Wuxi , eastern China , said in a microblog statement on Thursday that it spent six months investigating whether the couple had violated the law. Its inquiries followed claims last March that Zhang had at least seven children . Zhang's representatives subsequently confirmed he had two sons and a daughter with Chen, but denied that he had children with mistresses . According to state news agency Xinhua, Chen said the couple had not registered their marriage because they feared Zhang's identity would be exposed. The case hit a nerve in China , with critics arguing that the rich and powerful often avoid punishment for breaches of birth control laws while the poor are penalised. Officials were criticised for failing to respond to initial reports of a violation more quickly, but said in Thursday's statement that they had repeatedly contacted the couple without receiving a response. Only in November did Chen and Zhang send agents to Wuxi to co-operate, they said. They added that the fines were based on the couple's total income of more than 3.5m yuan in the years their children were born: 2000, 2003 and 2005. Payment is due within 30 days of the decision, although the couple are entitled to apply for an administrative review within 60 days or seek a court appeal within three months. The fine would be spent on public services and social programmes, the statement added. Initial media reports on the case suggested Zhang could face fines of as much as 160m yuan , although it is unclear how they calculated his income. In an interview with Xinhua in December, Zhang said he had been wrong. He added: "For me and my parents, we wish to have more children as in traditional views, they could bring more happiness." The Chinese government announced recently that couples will be able to have a second child if one of the parents is an only child. Previous exemptions cover ethnic minorities, rural families whose first child is a girl, and couples who are both only children.
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