The mystery of room no.13 in a Shandong internet bootcamp

Society & Culture

The fourth people’s hospital of Linyi, Shandong Province, which accommodates the most notorious internet addiction treatment center in China, has come under fire (in Chinese) after a viral video in which a boy can be heard screaming his mother’s name while receiving “treatment.”

The issue was brought to the public’s attention after Weibo user IADSER龙徒 (lóng tú) captured the moment and shared the one-minute clip on social media on October 22. He claims that he took the video when eating in a nearby restaurant outside the hospital. He says the the boy had been crying for over 10 minutes before he started shooting the video.

IADSER龙徒 told the Beijing News that he was once a patient in the internet detox clinic located in the hospital. During his one month stay in 2015, Yáng Yǒngxìn 杨永信, then the deputy head of the institution, used electric shock therapy on him. “The screams came from treatment room No.13, where they electrocuted patients as a form of punishment,” he said, adding that as far as he knows, the clinic was still running despite the news that it was ordered to close in August 2016 amid a wave of negative news. But they did not shut it down, “they just removed the sign outside.”

In response to the news, the internet information office of Linyi denied (in Chinese) the claims made by IADSER龙徒, saying that the child in the video is a patient with an intellectual disability, who was receiving treatment in the company of his grandmother. The authorities also said that the screams were not from room No.13, which has been out of service for a while.

Since its establishment in 2009, the Linyi center has been embroiled in several newsworthy controversies (in Chinese). Over the years, many patients like IADSER龙徒 have came forward accusing the facility of using questionable, cruel, unscientific treatments. (Linyi is notorious for its thuggish security services: it was ruffians acting on behalf of the Linyi government that persecuted blind self-taught lawyer Chén Guāngchéng 陈光诚 for nearly a decade.)

In 2017, the death of 18-year-old teenager at an internet detox center in Anhui Province prompted the Chinese government to draft a set of regulations banning the use of abusive methods such as beatings and electric shocks in similar facilities. But when the news came out that gaming addiction was officially classified as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization (WHO) in August, there was widespread concern that facilities relying heavily on electric shock therapy would make a comeback.