China: Electric torture in web addiction clinics

A reporter, Guo Jianloong (郭建龍) from 21st Century Business Herald, did an investigative report on Internet Addiction Clinic in China. His report could not be published in full because of internal censorship and he decided to publish it in his blog.

A censored report

In his report, he exposed the inhumane practice of a web addict clinic, “China Internet Addiction Curing Centre” in Shandong Lin-yi(臨沂)in which Yeung Yongxin(楊永信)is in charge. After the malpractice of the clinic was exposed, Yeung mobilized parents to attack Guo. So what happened in the clinic?

According to Guo's report, he visited the curing center on 21 of April and told the clinic that his brother was a web addict. In the process, he found out that kids were forcibly lockup and electrified.

Interest Chain

The reporter explained that the Web Addiction treatment in China has turned into an interest chain. On top of it is a group of experts who define web addiction as a mental illness. Such kind of psychiatric explanation is appealing to parents who don't know how to educate their children and the experts’ diagnosis gives them an easy way out. The operational motivation is of course monetary gain. A single web addiction clinic can make millions of yuan annually while the children have to suffer from lasting fear and psychological trauma.

His story is based on the experience of a 17 year-old youth Teng Fei. He was told to accompany his father for going to the clinic for a check up in April 2008 but then found out that he was betrayed by his parent. Indeed, most of the “patients”, most are between 13-30 year old, are being forcibly sent there by their family members. In their first visit all of them would be sent to Room 13 for “initial check up”. Within 2 hours, they would sign the letter of consent for treatment. Why? because the initial checkup involves electric shock! Teng Fei was electrified for half an hour in his “initial check up” and if he refused to sign the consent, he would have to receive more electric shocks.

Electrified to consent

Once they signed the letter of consent, the treatment would be lasted for 4.5 months. He received 7 electric shock therapies in less than 1.5 month. There is a mechanism for getting the electric shock treatment: when a patient receives up to 5 negative comments in the daily performance review session (which happens twice a day), they would be sent to room 13 for electric shock treatment. Negative comment would be given to those who are not cooperative or submissive in their daily performance.

Punishment and humiliation

Every morning there is a morning assembly for creating public pressure or more concretely humiliation in the public against stubborn patients. The gathering, attended by more than 300 people, reminds people of the public prosecution and psychological torture during the cultural revolution. For example, patients are asked to admit their wrongs and attack others’ wrongs in the public; kids are demanded to bow to their parents to show their willingness to be submissive. Sadly, the parents are convinced of the effectiveness in the treatment by such act.

Everyday, patients have to go through morning public assembly and performance review, afternoon military training and evening another performance review session. Taking tranquillizers is also part of the treatment.

Teng Fei attempted to escape after one and half month forced treatment. However, because his parent didn't give him support, he was forced to return to the clinic. At night, he was electrified for about 30 minutes. And since then he had to perform Tibetan style of bowing (whole body touches the ground) for 2-300 times until midnight before he could go to sleep everyday. Fortunately, Teng's father finally realized they had made a wrong decision and withdrew from the treatment program. He had to pay 5000 yuans compensation for early termination of contract and 15000 yuans for the 1.5 month treatment. On average a full course treatment (4.5 months) would be up to 30000 yuans.

6 hour online and you are a web addict

According to a psychiatric diagnosis report in Beijing in Nov 2008, any individual who spend more than 6 hours daily on online activity could be defined as a web addict. In the past few years, a large number of psychiatric clinics have been transformed into Web Addiction Curing centers and the Lin Yi “China Web Addiction Curing Centre” is among one of them. So far, the government controlled mainstream media has been very positive about the effectiveness of the treatment and neglects the inhumane nature of the practice. On the other hand, netizens are distributing Guo's investigative report by re-posting it in their blogs and posting the article's link via twitter and other social networking tools.


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