Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 11:55 UK

China web addict 'beaten' at camp

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Young Chinese men play computer games at an internet cafe in Beijing - 6 August 2009
China has almost 300 million internet users

A teenage boy is in a serious condition after being repeatedly beaten at a boot camp to treat internet addicts in China, state media have reported.

Pu Liang, 14, is said to have been beaten several times by the camp's principal and by other students.

It comes after a 15-year-old boy was beaten to death earlier this month at another of the military-style camps.

The death drew outrage in China, where many parents and officials believe some children spend too much time online.

Pu Liang's mother told local reporters that she sent her son to the camp, in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, because he was spending too much time playing online games.

Physical punishment is an effective way to educate children - as long as it can be controlled
Wu Yongjing
Head of internet addiction camp

She said the camp claimed it could cure the "problem" for 5,000 yuan ($730; £450).

But the mother said her son was beaten up and now has chest and kidney problems.

The camp is now closed and its principal has been arrested, according to Chinese media reports.

'Punishment effective'

Wu Yongjing, the man who set up the military-style camp, admitted to the BBC that youngsters were sometimes beaten.

"Physical punishment is an effective way to educate children - as long as it can be controlled," he said.

China has more internet users than anywhere else in the world - almost 300 million.

Some parents send their children to boot camps to cure them of their "addiction".

At the camps, youngsters are usually put through rigorous physical exercises and taught to appreciate other pastimes.

But treatment for internet addiction remains a controversial issue in China.

Tao Ran, an expert on the issue at Beijing's Military General Hospital, said the rules covering this area were chaotic in China.

He said most people running internet addiction boot camps were not properly qualified to treat or handle youngsters.

"Only hospitals and doctors with proper qualifications should provide treatment," said Dr Tao.

China's Ministry of Health said there was no scheme to register - or monitor - camps that treat internet addiction.

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