China has been shaken yet again by another tragic medical scandal, this one involves a 3-year-old boy with autism, who was tragically killed after undergoing some questionable treatment methods at a private facility in Guangzhou.
The child’s mother, Zhang Wei, received a call that her 3-year-old boy had died at a Guangzhou hospital on April 26th. She rushed down the next day to see her son’s body lying in the morgue. In a lengthy report shared over WeChat, Zhang says that she could barely recognize her boy. He had become tanner and thinner and had scratches all over his body.
Zhang soon learned the terrible truth of what had happened to her son, Jiajia. Local reports state that on the day he died, Jiajia walked 10 km while wearing heavy clothing following breakfast, and then, after lunch and a nap, walked another 9 km in the afternoon.
This type of military-like training is the cornerstone of treatment at Tiandao Zhengqi (天道正气), a private rehabilitation center that is operated by Xia Dejun, a self-taught practitioner who believes that autism is directly linked to spoiled and lazy children.
To help children “recover” from autism, treatment at the center involves a regime of rigorous physical exercise, including forcing kids to walk from 10 to 20 km per day. Pictures have popped up online showing one staff member with a rope tied to her waist leading children dressed in heavy coats on one of these long walks.
Xia claims that this kind of exercise also works to calm children down between therapy sessions. At the center, their diet was similarly strict, forbidding processed food in favor of a few vegetables and fruit and some rice.
Jiajia’s family is from Dandong, in northeastern Liaoning province. He could only say a few simple terms, sometimes he would become so frustrated when trying to communicate that he would bang his head or bite his tongue. After Jiajia was diagnosed with mild autism at a Beijing hospital, Zhang began searching around for a possible cure.
That’s when she first heard about Xia, reading one of his books online, which claimed that after undergoing his treatment, a number of children had successfully recovered from autism.
Hoping for a similar miracle for her child, she booked a three-month treatment program at Xia’s private rehabilitation facility in Guangzhou for 31,200 RMB ($4,799), starting in March. Xia kept parents updated about their kids’ progress via a WeChat group, but didn’t allow them to communicate directly with their children during the program.
After Jiajia’s death, Xia sent out messages to all the parents to come and get their children. Zhang has vowed to sue the center and the local government has launched an investigation into its practices. According to The Global Times, the institution is not registered with Guangzhou Civil Affairs Bureau and private rehabilitation firms are not required to abide by any industry regulations.
Unfortunately, these sort of facilities offering dubious miracle cures are nothing new in China. Xia’s center is similar to those that have popped up in cities around the country to treat video game addiction in adolescents by subjecting them to bootcamp-like training.
To “cure” homosexuality, various Chinese facilities offer “gay conversion therapies” that involve dangerous electroshock therapies. Others try to exorcise the homosexuality out of their patients.
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners offer cure-all alligator elixirs and owl wine for those suffering from the shakes. In January, one villager tried using a deadly cobra to treat his daughter with a rare disease.
Most recently, Baidu and Chinese military hospitals are at the center of a massive medical scandal following the death of a student with cancer, who underwent a “cutting-edge” procedure to cure his cancer at a Beijing hospital, that ended up being bogus.
[Images via Weibo / WeChat]