Mystery of teenager's death at Internet addiction center

AFP
A boy has died after less than 48 hours at a center that treats Internet addicts, shining a light on the controversial facilities that seek to unlatch people from their screens.
AFP

A teenager has died after less than 48 hours at a center that treats Internet addicts, shining a light on the controversial facilities that seek to unlatch people from their screens.

The first country to declare Internet addiction a clinical disorder, China is estimated to be home to millions of, primarily, young men who spend hours online.

The parents of 18-year-old Li Ao had tried everything they could think of to cure his addiction — showing him the ropes of the family business, encouraging him to join the military and taking him on trips around the country.

But after none of these methods produced results, they decided to pay 22,800 yuan (US$3,414) for 180 days of “closed, isolated special education” at the rehab center.

The school had promised to use a combination of psychological treatment methods and military training, Li’s parents told CCTV.

While the cause of Li’s death remains unknown, his father Li Tao and mother Liu Dongmei told the TV station that the school called them just a day and a half after they had dropped off their son to say he was in the emergency room.

By the time they arrived at the hospital, Li had already been moved to the morgue, where his parents found his body covered with scars.

“The teachers at the center told us that their teaching style was very nurturing. They said they never beat kids or used corporal punishment,” Liu told CCTV. 

“But when I saw my son’s body there were bruises all over his arms and legs,” she said.

CCTV said the school, near the provincial capital of Hefei, was unlicensed and had been ordered to close several times by the local government.

“Now I just want the authorities to investigate and expose the truth of my son’s death,” said Li.

Police have taken the school’s management and four instructors into custody, while the 20 students who remained at the center have all been picked up by their parents.

An investigation is continuing, CCTV reported. 

China introduced draft legislation in February that bans the use of electroshock therapy and beatings at Internet addiction treatment centers. 

The law would also prevent minors from playing online games between midnight and 8am.

In a bid to curb gaming marathons on its popular “King of Glory” mobile online multiplayer battle game, Internet giant Tencent last month began restricting daily playing times for children.

The smartphone smash hit had even infected the Chinese military, with the official People’s Liberation Army newspaper warning that soldiers’ attachment to “King of Glory” posed a “security risk that can’t be overlooked.”


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