China’s infamous internet addiction boot camps are under fire once again after one teenager checked into a camp earlier this month, only to end up dead just two days later.
Liu Dongmei said that her son, 18-year-old Li Ao, was a nice boy who simply had become hopelessly addicted to the internet, making him lose interest in everything else. Hoping to “cure” her son of his addiction, Liu discovered an internet addiction treatment center in Anhui’s Fuyang city which boasted of successfully treating net-obsessed teens through a combination of physical training and psychological counseling.
The woman dropped her son off at the center on August 3rd. The plan was for him to stay at the center for 180 days at a total cost of 22,800 yuan.
However, just two days later, they received a call from the camp, informing them that Li had been rushed to the hospital with serious injuries where he died a short time later.
In an interview with a local news station, Liu described seeing her dead child’s body in the hospital morgue, covered in scars and bruises. Doctors said that he had suffered at least 20 injuries.
“My son’s body was completely covered with scars, from top to toe… When I sent my son to the center he was still fine, how could he have died within 48 hours?” she said through tears.
While the exact cause of Li’s death is unknown, the center’s director and four staff members have been detained by police while investigations into the facility are carried out, the BBC reports.
China has more than 730 million internet users, about a quarter of which are under 19 years of age. Some of these kids have become a bit too internet-obsessed for their parents’ liking, causing them to be sent to internet addiction treatment centers which often style themselves as boot camps where web-addicted kids are forced to abandon their love for the internet via rigorous exercise and military-style drilling — or if that fails, then by simply beating it out of them.
Back in 2009, one 15-year-old boy died at an internet addiction rehabilitation clinic in Guangxi, after allegedly being beaten by his counselors. Another horrifying incident occurred last September with one daughter tying her mother to a chair and slowly starving her to death as punishment for sending her to one of these boot camps where the 16-year-old girl claims she was subject to regular beatings and abuse before escaping back home.
Still, this kind of bad press doesn’t seem to have stopped parents from sending their precious children away to these rehab centers. There are hundreds of boot camps around the country, and business is still booming.
Earlier this year, China attempted to crack down on the more brutal tactics employed by these camps, drafting a piece of legislation to ban them from attempting to “cure” teens with beatings, electroshock therapy and drugs.
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