By Cory Wolfe
A Chinese teenager has died less than 48 hours after admission into a controversial internet addiction camp.
Li Ao, an 18-year-old man in Anhui province, was a well-mannered son other than seemingly having lost interest in everything except the Internet, his mother said. Liu Dongmei said her son had developed a serious internet addiction which she and her husband were unable to help with.
Liu, feeling that her son needed outside help, read about an Internet-addiction treatment center in Fuyang city and its many success stories. The center offered more gentle approaches than the more extreme treatments administered by some of China’s more notorious Internet-addiction “boot camps,” instead offering psychological counseling and physical training.
Liu and her husband, Li Tao, checked their son into the center on August 3rd, agreeing to pay a cost of 22,800 yuan, or 3,420 USD for a period of 180 days. Before enrolling her son, Liu was assured by a staff member that the facility’s methods were “gentle” and did not include the use of corporal punishment.
Less than two days later, the teens parents received a phone call. Li Ao had been rushed to a hospital, where he later died, allegedly from injuries sustained at the camp.
The official cause of death has yet to be determined, though the director of the facility along with numerous staff members are being held by police.
The distraught mother told local paper Anhui Business News that her 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 asked.
A postmortem examination on the boy discovered 20 external wounds throughout his body as well as signs of internal bleeding.
In an interview conducted several days after his death by Anhui Television, Li Ao’s father sat solemnly on the edge of the bed, holding a single tissue.
“It hadn’t even been 48 hours since we dropped him off,” Li Tao told the news station. “After a day and a half, our child was gone.”
Numerous Chinese media outlets have said that the Fuyang center has been closed down pending an investigation into how the teenager died, according to BBC news.
Use of these centers, some of which are operating illegally, has become a point of controversy in China. Some supposedly use cruel methods, such as corporal punishment and electroshock therapy (EST), to treat internet addiction.
Earlier this year, state media reported draft regulations that would outlaw “electric shock therapy, beatings and other abusive methods” at such camps, according to the Telegraph.
Last September, the facilities were once again thrust underneath the spotlight after a young girl, sent to one such facility by her mother where she was allegedly abused, returned home and murdered her. The 16 year old girl reportedly bound her mother to a chair where she held her captive and starved her to death.
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