The danger is palpable as filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers' rights, continues to champion girls' and women's rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.
Wang becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. She keeps shooting guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden—camera glasses, and in the process, exposes undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wangs' story of Sparrow and her fellow activists makes it out, giving viewers unprecedented access to the realities human rights activists face in China today.