When Justice Is No Longer Served—Deciphering China’s Mass Petitioning Movement and the Ineffectiveness of the Judicial System

According to the Chinese law, petitioners who needed justice may shangfang, meaning that if petitioners are unsatisfied with the local-level government’s decision, they may move up the hierarchy and file grievances to provincial-level offices or the highest-level office in Beijing. Every year, more than 13 million grievances reach Beijing; the scale of “collective petitioning” is even greater. The road to petitioning is an arduous one. Oftentimes, petitioners would use up all their money, end up in a mental health hospital, and even lose their loved ones. What are the underlying problems of this petitioning system? 

About the Documentary
Directed by: Zhao Liang
Shangfang is a unique phenomenon in the Chinese society. In 1996, Zhao Liang starts filming petitioners in the “Petition Village” in Beijing. Using 12 years to follow various petitioners, Zhao portrays the lives of the petitioners and the social contradictions.