Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 12:53 UK

'Web addict' death investigated

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Chinese officials are investigating the case of a teenager who was allegedly beaten to death at a camp designed to treat internet addiction.

Fifteen-year-old Deng Senshan died on Sunday less than 24 hours after arrival at the Qihang Salvation Training Camp.

Four members of staff at the facility in Nanning have been arrested over the death, according to local reports.

China is increasingly taking action to treat what it sees as a pandemic of web addiction amongst teenagers.

Some estimates suggest up to 10% of the country's 100 million web users under 20 could be addicted, and a growing number of rehabilitation services exist.

However, there is little consensus on how to treat the addiction.

Tao Ran, director of the country's first internet addiction treatment clinic in Beijing, told The Associated Press (AP) that most camps chose to use military-style discipline over scientific methods.

He said this was a particular problem for many of the children because they suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"Once you put these kids to the training camps or schools, they are bound to have problems with the teachers, because...they can't be still, while the training is all about keeping still," he told AP.

In July, China's Ministry of Health formally banned the use of electroshock therapy as a treatment option.

Deng's father told the Xinhua news agency that his son spent all his time on the internet and had decided to send his son to the camp in southern Guangxi province after seeing an advertisement on television.

According to the China Daily newspaper, an agreement the teenagers' parents signed with the camp said: "The centre can take necessary approaches including punishment to educate the teenager, as long as the approaches will not abuse the child or impair his health."

Camp staff are alleged to have put the teenager in solitary confinement on Saturday and then beaten him that evening.

Xinhua reported that Deng was found vomiting and was taken to a clinic where he died. The report also said that local government officials had found several marks on his body.



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