Teenagers left traumatized by ‘electroshock therapy’

By China Youth Daily – Global Times Source:Agencies-Global Times Published: 2016/8/28 19:38:39

A young Chinese "Internet addict" receives an electroencephalogram check at the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital on July 6, 2005. Photo: CFP

This was an unplanned escape. All Zhang Xutong had was a small bag and 4,000 yuan ($599) stolen from home.

Zhang, 25, ate at roadside stalls, keeping his face covered, stayed near the exit in public spot, and kept away from any vehicles with Shandong license plates. In his bag was a long knife; if he was caught he had decided to kill himself.

He was running from his family, because if they caught him, they would send him back to Room 13 of the Internet addiction treatment center in Linyi, East China's Shandong Province.

The center is infamous for its abuse of electroshock therapy. Electroshock therapy is a legitimate medical technique for severe depression or mania, but it has no role in addiction therapy. Despite this, the center has used it to "treat" more than 6,000 Internet addicts, mostly teenagers, since 2006.

The center was prohibited from performing the therapy in 2009 by then Ministry of Health, but it re-entered public spotlight in August after media revealed that it still operates after renaming the torturous process as "low-frequency-pulse electronic acupuncture."

Nightmare house

Most "patients," including Zhang, preferred to call the Internet Addiction Treatment Center of Linyi No. 4 People's Hospital simply "there."

Zhang recalled his first time "there" in 2007. His parents and several other family members took him there straight from an Internet café.

He was taken straight to Room 13, where a man in a white coat said "Let's check if you've got Internet addiction." Eight men pushed him to a bed and stuffed a brace into his mouth.

Then someone pasted two white sticks onto his temples. A flash of lightning went through his brain.

He shouted curses, but before he could finish, a second round of "lightning" came, then the third and fourth round.

Later he heard a voice, "still want to curse?"

"No," he said.

"Do you know why you are here?"

"No idea," Zhang said. Another round of "lightning" followed.

"I was not properly behaved," Zhang finally said.

"Do you know what you're supposed to tell your parents after get-out?"

"Yes."

"OK, let him go."

Zhang dropped to his kneels when he got out of the bed.

It wasn't until later that he learnt the man in a white coat was Yang Yongxin, the dean of the center.

Yang, who graduated with just three years of study in 1982 from a vocational medical school, claims to be an innovative psychiatrist, the Beijing News reported on August 20.

Zhang and other teenagers under "treatment" were subject to a routine "ideological education" in the morning, military training in the afternoon, and writing heavily monitored diaries at night.

They were electrocuted if they violated a list of 86 rules: Don't eat chocolate, don't challenge Yang's authority, don't take medication with an empty stomach and don't sit in Yang's chair. For each electric shock, the "patient" needed to pay 200 yuan.

For Zhang, love was the only light left. One night, Zhang sneaked into the center's computer room and left his girlfriend a message on her QQ, "Wait for me, I am about to get out."

Unfortunately, Zhang was caught by a parent. Before he received electric shock as punishment, his mother shouted, "increase the current and electrocute him!"

That night, Zhang was electrocuted until he passed out.

Soon, Zhang was released. He decided to elope with his girlfriend. The couple went to Datong, North China's Shanxi Province, where they quickly spent all of the 4,000 yuan.

Zhang was caught eventually by his family when he returned home, and was sent to the center again.

New life?

Zhang never returned home after his second round of torture at the clinic. He spent most of his time in different Internet cafes and hotels.

But he was plunged into constant nightmares, in which he was being electrocuted or being chased by his family.

He chose to end his life through an overdose of pills, but woke up in the ICU. Today, however, he has a stable job at a public institution.

He had thought about reconciling with his parents, but each time he considered it he recalled his mother's words "Increase the current and electrocute him."

Zhang says his girlfriend has had several abortions in recent years. After his experiences, he has no faith in himself as a father. 

China Youth Daily - Global Times


Newspaper headline: Room 13


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