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June 1st, 2009
The People's Court
Themes and Video Segments


Global Issues: China’s move to market capitalism is forcing deep changes in society. Its government is attempting to institute a legal system quickly enough to keep up with its economic expansion. But questions remain: Can a communist country defend the right to private property? How will one-party rule in China cope with the need for legal reform?

Human Rights: Despite increases in its GDP, China is home to some of the world’s starkest divisions between rich and poor. Individual rights as they are understood in the United States have not yet been adopted.

Economics and Public Policy: Three quarters of all Chinese think corruption is rife in China. The government itself reports that tens of billions of dollars are embezzled by state officials every year. Mediation is frequently used to settle economic disputes.

Judge Li and her colleague
photo credit: Maggie Still


Segment 1: In a practice court for law students at Sichuan University in the city of Chengdu, 1000 miles southwest of China’s capital, Beijing, they’re re-examining a real-life industrial injury case between a laborer and his employers.

Segment 2: Being involved in a lawsuit used to be considered a disgrace, but now central Chengdu’s district court’s busy docket is filled with employee disputes, road accidents, divorce petitions, and migrant labor cases.

Segment 3: Judge Li and her colleagues regularly travel to the outlying hill villages around Gongxian with a mobile court.  It’s part of the government’s effort to bring the emerging legal system to the farthest corners of the country.

Segment 4: Lawyers rely on local officials to renew their licenses from year to year. It’s one of the reasons taking on cases against officials and state-linked companies can be a risky business. Ran Tong accepts the cases other lawyers won’t touch.

Segment 5: Daljit Dhaliwal interviews Alice Young, a partner at Kaye Scholer LLP.

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