Chinese internet addiction boot camp closed after accusations on physical abuse
 
Students at Yuzhang Academy are seen wearing traditional Chinese  garments in picture. 
 
A Chinese school in south-east China’s Jiangxi Province has announced to close after being accused of using cruel physical punishments on students to help them overcome their addiction to the Internet, Beijing News reported on Thursday.
 
The school called Yuzhang Academy was established during the Southern Song Dynasty and is known for teaching Chinese traditional etiquette and helping teenagers get rid of bad habits such as Internet addiction, puppy love and aversion to study. 
 
The Internet addiction boot camp came under spotlight at the end of October after an article about students’ experience at the school was posted on Zhihu, China’s equivalent of Quora. Following that, several other students of the school exposed torturous experiences they have been through at the school on China’s social media platforms including Sina Weibo and Tencent-owned WeChat. 
 
Teachers at the Academy used corporal punishment, locked students up in solitary confinement and forced them to do hard labor. Some students were also under strict supervision in case they commit suicide, according to former students’ posts online. Some of the teachers were retired soldiers. 
 
According to a post on social media by a former student, students had to wake up at 5:30 and do morning reading outside in the yard every day no matter what the weather was like. And mobile phones and any forms of tools that could connect to the outside world were all forbidden. 
 
“Students were asked to recite Chinese ancient texts, and if you failed to do so, they would beat your hand with an iron ruler. I was beaten once for 13 times and after that my hand became red and swollen, and ruler prints could be obviously seen on my hand,” a former student with a screen name of “Shan Ni Ma Da Wang” was seen describing her horrifying experience in a video interview by Beijing News on November 1. 
 
Many students said they were sent to the school by their parents without letting them know beforehand. And after they first arrived there, they were left in a tiny dark windowless room with only a chamber pot, a pillow, and a quilt. After they were released from the room, students were ordered to dress in traditional Chinese garments. 
 
A student surnamed Liu, 16, told Sixth Tone that there were at most 70 boys and 60 girls at the school, most of whom were under 15 while the youngest child could have been 9 years old. 
 
On October 30, the Nanchang government confirmed that the school handed physical punishment to students after an investigation. Such punishments included “making them stand in the corner, or beating them with rulers and bamboo sticks,” the government said on Weibo. 
 
The issue triggered a heated discussion on Sina Weibo, China’s largest social media platform, with some netizens comparing the school to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, some blaming parents for sending their child there.
 
The camp located in Nanchang city of the province charges 30,000 yuan for a six-month term and targets at parents who are desperate to stop their child’s obsession with the internet and other bad behaviors. 
 
While Yuzhang is not the only school in China claiming to help “cure” children’s internet addiction, one of the promotional material of Yuzhang was its historic brand promising to use Confucius philosophy to give problematic teenagers a chance of better life. 
 
Yuzhang is not the first boot camp in China being accused of physical abuse on students. Others have been known for using both electroshock therapy and harsh physical abuse. According to Chinese media, there were around 300 camps in China in 2014 helping teenagers get rid of internet addiction. 
 
In August, an 18-year-old boy died just 48 hours into attending an illegal digital detox boot camp in Anhui Province in eastern China. 
 
Last year, a teenage girl from Heilongjiang Province in north-east China murdered her mother after she was sent to an internet boot camp. The girl was reportedly being abused during her stay in the camp.
 
In January, Chinese government drafted a law that could crack down on such camps’ misconducts that may infringe personal legitimate rights including electroshock, and other physical and mental punishments on teenagers when seeking to get over internet addiction. 
 
 

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