A Chinese 18-year-old, identified as Li Ao from Anhui province, died on Aug. 5 — just two days after he started receiving gaming addiction treatment at a so called "digital detox" camp.
His parents reportedly tried encouraging Li Ao to set up a business, travel or join the army but in vain. As a last resort, the concerned parents decided to send him at an internet rehab camp.
Little did they know that their decision would cost their son's life.
The boot camp aiming to reduce Li Ao’s internet addiction was illegal. The grieving parents spent 22,800 yuan ($3,414) on the camp, known as as the “Positive Energy Education Centre,” situated in Anhui province.
The bogus rehabilitation center claimed to help children suffering from internet addiction through psychological counseling. But, as it later turned out, that was not the case.
Instead, Li’s parents reportedly got a call from the center just two days after his admission telling them their son was dead and was being taken to the mortuary.
“The center was called Hefei education and the site had some so-called success stories," explained the teen's mother, only identified as Liu. "I saw that my child's situation is almost exactly the same as these stories.”
The establishment told Liu they would only use counseling as a measure of treatment, an assurance that made her sign an agreement with the school. Her son was required to be at the camp for 180 days.
After learning about their son’s tragic demise, both the parents rushed to a funeral home, where they were shocked to see several injuries on Li’s body.
“My son is full of scars from head to toe. On the afternoon of Aug. 6, a forensic team inspected my son's body and found that along with the external injuries, there are also some internal injuries,” lamented Liu.
According to a postmortem report, the body had suffered more than 20 external injuries.
In China, fake internet rehab camps are not new. These camps market themselves, fooling parents about how their children, who aren’t disciplined, will get on the right path. Some claim to use military tactics, while others go with psychological counseling.
The rehab camp’s website, where Li Ao died, called itself a “quit addiction school” that can help “save lost children.” It further claimed teachers and students eat and lived together and the children were not allowed out of the teacher's line of sight. The rehab's website also promised to not scold children.
However, on Aug. 9 it was revealed that the "digital detox" in question was illegally operating without a license. Local education authorities had ordered the camp closed several times previously.
After Li Ao’s tragic death, the local government finally shut the center down. The head of the school and four coaches were detained and the case is further being investigated.
Thumbnail Credits: Pixabay, Paologhedini