Thursday, August 2, 2012

SCMP: Director Admits Making Promo

Jul 31, 2012

Noted film director Zhang Yimou was paid 2.5 million yuan (HK$3.06 million) for his involvement in an 18.5 million yuan promotional video for the Railways Ministry that has further cast the office in a negative light amid mounting public criticism, mainland media reported yesterday.

Both Zhang (pictured) and the ministry came under fire last month when the National Audit Office criticised the five-minute film, Chinese Railways, for its poor quality and high cost, and for not going through the proper tender process.

On July 2, Zhang denied directing the video. However, yesterday he admitted signing a contract in January 2010 with Beijing-based production company Xinshike, and receiving the money as payment for directing the short film that cost 18.5 million yuan, according to a report in the Economic Information Daily.

The ministry has come under fire for corruption and non-transparent management since the graft-ridden downfall of its former minister, Liu Zhijun , last year, with several other railway officials also detained.

Neither Zhang nor anyone at the Railways Ministry were available for comment yesterday.

The newspaper quoted a source at Xinshike as saying that the ministry 'just wanted to use Zhang to direct the video, so it let our company reach him directly'.

The source, who was not identified, said the video cost 7 million yuan to make after Zhang's payment - on which the company paid taxes - with much of the remainder paid as bribes and kickbacks.

The report did not say which officials at the ministry may have accepted kickbacks, but soon after the revelation by the government auditor, the newly appointed deputy director of vehicles for the ministry's Transport Bureau, Liu Ruiyang , came under investigation earlier this month. Liu's wife, Chen Yihan , who worked at the ministry, was also being investigated.

She used to be deputy chief of the Railway Ministry's publicity department, before being promoted to deputy secretary general of a cultural department.

Zhang also said he had signed a second contract a year after the first stating that Xinshike could not use his name for promotional purposes.

Liu Zilong, a Shenzhen-based activist lawyer, commented on the scandal, saying: 'The ministry should launch a further investigation and offer the public details about [its] relationship with the production company. If the company is found to have been involved in bribing officials to win the bid for the video, Zhang's pay would also be unlawful.'

Independent producer Li Wenling said: 'Zhang should be ashamed if he directed a video with such terrible standards.' (SCMP)

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