China Bans Beatings After Death at Web-Addict Camp

Punishment beatings have been banned from Chinese camps set up to cure teenage Internet addicts after one of them died.

More than 200 organizations have been set up across the country to "treat" adolescents obsessed with the world wide web. "Patients" are forced to substitute time spent staring at a monitor with strenuous physical exercise — or even more extreme forms of "therapy."

In July, the government banned electric shock treatment after media reports about a controversial psychiatrist who used it on thousands of teenagers.

The following month, 15-year-old Deng Senshan died just hours after checking in to a camp in the south-western Guangxi region, prompting an outcry in the media.

Days later another teenager, Pu Liang, was taken to hospital with water in the lungs and kidney failure following time spent at a similar installation in Sichuan Province.

Now, the government has issued new guidelines saying those offering treatment should be more careful with their patients.

"When intervening to prevent improper use of the Internet, we should... strictly prohibit restriction of personal freedom and physical punishments," the health ministry said in a draft guideline for Internet use by minors.

It avoided using the term "Internet addiction," which was widely seen in earlier policy documents. Dropping the term may have been an attempt to calm the worried parents who have helped make the camps such a booming business.

The new guidelines suggest officials in Beijing do not think that those whose web usage is deemed excessive should be forced to stay offline altogether.

"The goal of intervention is... to urge the target people to use the Internet in a healthy way," they said. "It's not to stop them from using the Internet."