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Clinic criticized for treating Internet addiction with electric shock ‘therapy’

By Ma Danning (People's Daily Online)    16:27, August 17, 2016

Yang Yongxin.(file photo)

A Chinese psychiatric clinic is facing backlash after the revelation that it regularly administers electric shock treatment to its teenaged patients, claiming that this “cures” their Internet addiction. Electric shock therapy was banned from use by Chinese health officials seven years ago.

In July 2008, an influential expose by CCTV revealed that the Internet Addiction Treatment Center, a “bootcamp” at Linyi Mental Hospital in Shandong province, had been using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat teenage Internet addiction since its founding in 2006. The report caused an immediate uproar.

Ultimately, the report led to the Chinese Ministry of Health prohibiting the center from administering ECT in 2009, on the grounds that existing medical research failed to demonstrate its safety and efficiency.

The hospital recently re-entered the spotlight after Beijing News reported on Aug. 15 that the center is using a therapeutic method invented by the head of the center, Yang Yongxin, known as "low-frequency pulse therapy." The new therapy is similar to ECT, though some former patients claimed that it is even more painful.

The report cites stories of teenagers who were abducted or coaxed by their parents to receive treatment at the center. The center claims that patients with “Internet addiction” suffer from cognitive and personality disorders, and that electric shocks are a remedy for such disorders.

A 16-year-old former patient, under the alias of Fu Nan, said he was sent to the center in 2014 when he was 14 years old. One day in July, while he was walking on the street, two men snatched him and forced him into a car. Fu’s parents were also in the car, and they accompanied him to the center against his will.

According to Fu’s account, as well as those of other former patients, the center has more than 80 strict prohibitions. Among them, patients are prohibited from telling their parents that they want to go home, from eating chocolate and from “challenging Yang Yongxin’s authority.” After disobeying a certain number of rules, patients are forced to receive electric shocks. Yang allegedly uses this so-called treatment to force compliance in his teenaged patients.

Fu said he received his first electric shock just half an hour after he arrived at the center.

“It was like multitudes of needles were pinching my body. Every cell hurt,” Fu recalled.

Qi Qing, another former patient, described the pain as so intense that it impacted his eyesight.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor: Ma Danning,Bianji)

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