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Father tells how son was killed at Web addict camp
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Mr. Deng has tried to piece together what happened in the last 13 hours of his son's life by talking to other trainees. It appears Senshan was ordered to take a long distance run immediately after his parents left the camp. When he became exhausted and failed to complete the course, he was locked in a detention room and mercilessly beaten by camp counselors. "There are still bloodstains in the room," said Mr. Deng.

The other trainees noticed something wrong with Senshan after he was released from detention. By midnight, they said, the boy was lying motionless on his bed with strange sounds coming from his throat.

Senshan was rushed to hospital around 3 a.m., vomiting, sweating badly, unconscious and in convulsions. At 3:10 he stopped breathing. Five minutes later, he was pronounced dead when his heart stopped beating.

On August 2, when Mr. Deng returned to the camp, some of the other teenage trainees handed him written messages begging for help. One girl gave her father's phone number to Mr. Deng, but, bizarrely, could not remember her father's name.

Mr. Deng learned that most of the trainees had been brutally tortured. They were often beaten and locked up in detention rooms, sometimes for several days. The camp cut off children's contact with their parents to prevent complaints.

After Deng Senshan's death, the authorities declared the camp illegal, shut it down and took 13 suspects into custody.

Now his father is waiting for a court ruling for the matter. Still devastated by his loss, Mr. Deng said he hopes his son's death will raise society's awareness of the issue of illegal Internet addiction camps.

Hao Xianghong, president of the China Youth Internet Association (CYIA), maintains that 11 million young Chinese are affected by Internet addiction.

With so many apparent "addicts" to be cured, private business quickly stepped in to exploit a potentially lucrative market. According to Tao Hongkai, a professor at Huazhong Normal University and an expert on Internet addiction, there are around 300 Internet addiction treatment organizations in China with widely differing fees and treatment methods. Some were even performing electro-convulsive therapy to cure Internet addiction until July when the government stepped in to ban the practice.

Hao Xiaohong blamed a "chaotic marketplace" for making it difficult for parents to choose a reputable treatment center. Xu Leiting, a psychotherapist who specializes in Internet addiction, said China lacked experienced professionals who know how to treat the condition.

But whether or not Internet addiction can be categorized as a genuine disorder is still in dispute worldwide. In 1995, New York psychologist Ivan Goldberg proposed Internet addiction as a disorder and defined diagnostic standards. But his findings are still being debated and researched. Meanwhile, in China no uniform standards have been laid down for the treatment of the condition.

(China.org.cn by Pang Li, August 20, 2009)

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