Last Sunday, 16 year-old Deng Senshan was beaten to death by his three supervisors, allegedly for running too slowly. "My son was very healthy and was not a criminal," the boy's father, Deng Fei, told newspapers. "He just had an Internet addiction when I left him at the camp. We can't believe our only son was beaten to death."
The words "only son" carry a great deal more weight in China than they would in the United States. While there are exceptions to China's one-child policy—couples, for example, are often allowed to have a second child if the first is a girl—the mere fact that the above exemption exists demonstrates the degree to which sons are favored over daughters. Abortions for reasons of gender, abandonment, and infanticide are all illegal in China, but males are still seen as providers for their parents in old age, while women, once married, are considered to be part of the family they marry into.
Deadlines, ECT, Addiction, or all of the above?
Just in case you aren't sure what ECT actually is, allow me to elucidate. ECT (simply put) is the practice of putting an electrode on both sides of a patient's head and then running a current in between. China generally uses what's called "unmodified" ECT, which means no anesthetics or muscle relaxants are administered to reduce pain and / or prevent the full body convulsions that occur when one's brain is used as an electrical circuit.
Even the legitimate, medical use of ECT is controversial, as its side effects can include permanent memory loss. The main reason ECT is still around at all is that there are certain people who respond to it as a treatment for severe depression, psychosis, or catatonia, when nothing else has worked.
It is not approved for the treatment of any sort of addiction, and anecdotal evidence suggests the doctor's at one Internet addiction treatment facility got a tad frenzied themselves. According to 17 year-old Teng Fei, the shocks began when he resisted permanent admission to the treatment facility.
"I can't remember how many times [they gave me shocks], but it must have been dozens. They would let me rest for a while then give me another. The session lasted about half an hour...I struggled and tried to get up and they said it meant I still did not agree to stay so they gave me more shocks for another half an hour … I agreed to stay because I really couldn't stand any more of it."
Smart kid. Now that beating to death is also off the table, proponents of this sort of treatment may really have to work to find an effective means of communicating the proper way to cure the problem.