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July 11th, 2011
The People's Court

“Shot with grace, poignancy and humor, and never sacrifices
elegance for sanctimony…. Suspense derives from this amazing subject:

how quickly can a new body of law be instantiated and citizens be made to recognize it?”

–The New York Times

The Issue

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 Film

WIDE ANGLE 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.

  • Richard S. Riggs

    Just think we brought it all down on our own heads when Tricky Dick went to China to “open it up” and take the attention away from Watergate and please some corporations who thought they could make huge bucks by selling to the Chinese. As it turns out the Chinese were great at copying, demanding that at least some of the stuff America sold them was to be made in China where they learned the techniques, own the factories and now have puty those companies out of business as well as the emploiyees that oncve worked for those companies. America will make a very good colony of the Chinese if it can somehow scrape together enough money to by the stuff they make.

  • kandroma

    China’s corruption is so deep, so greedy, so sick–this is the tip of the iceberg. Keep up the good work, Wideangle!

  • Janet Jones

    I think China’s legal system is imperfect, as the U.S. legal is also imperfect. Often Americans and westerners in general expect other nations to be a mirror image. Different does not mean deficient. Yes there is corruption in China, as there is in the U.S., what about our eminent domain laws, and aside from that money talks. Just because Chinese corruption is visible and the U.S. hides its does not mean either system is superior to the other. I am sure in time the Chinese legal system and its civil rights will adapt to the people’s needs. What China needs is non-interference by the West and its minions (transnational corporations). And as far as copying, that’s how progress is made, where do you think gunpowder came from?

  • cecilia d.


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