Poised to surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world, yet facing mounting domestic and international pressure for a fair and transparent framework of laws, China is racing to reshape the rules of society. In the past quarter century, the country has opened nearly 400 law schools, trained hundreds of thousands of judges and lawyers, and launched education campaigns to encourage people to bring their grievances to court rather than taking to the streets. But the transformation is incomplete and the judiciary far from independent. Senior judges are appointed by, take orders from, and receive their paychecks from the one-party state. Hundreds of Chinese lawyers have been jailed in recent years while citizens are taking to the streets in record numbers to protest land seizures, corruption, pollution, or unpaid wages. And China executes more prisoners each year than the rest of the world combined.
The filmmakers gained exclusive access to film in Chinese courts; a first for a Western documentary. Profiling itinerant judges, law students, a human rights lawyer, and ordinary citizens, The People’s Court examines China in flux, revealing the lengths to which Chinese people must go to obtain justice and raising crucial questions about their emerging system of law.