yang yongxin

Controversial Internet Addiction Doctor Caught Breaking the Rules

Despite 2009 ban, treatment method still being used

China’s controversial internet addiction practitioner, Yang Yongxin, is back in the media following a recent article claiming he continues to use electroshock therapy, a method officially banned in 2009.

According to a report in The Beijing News, the No. 4 Linyi Mental Hospital in Shandong employs a treatment method called “low-frequency pulse therapy” to treat its patients for internet addiction. The procedure is described by patients as similar to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and is extremely painful.

Medical experts claim the treatment is “unscientific” and its director, Yang Yongxin, is an “evil” person who has “harmed countless children”.

The internet addiction center responded to the accusations in a letter published on its own website last week, claiming the accusations were nothing more than “malicious libel” and constituted a “serious violation of the truth” that had damaged the reputation of its director. The letter goes on to say that its treatment methods were legitimate, that all of its patients were willing participants, and that the center had no involvement in any illegal activities.

In 2009, China’s Ministry of Health directly forbade Yang’s internet addiction center from carrying out any further rehabilitation involving electroshock therapy. The Ministry said existing medical research had concluded that the practice was unsafe and had no scientific merit.

Yang’s internet addiction center administered aversion therapy for more than 80 reasons or conditions, ranging from eating chocolate to “challenging Yang Yongxin’s authority”.

According to Yang, the use of electroshock therapy was “mild and not dangerous” and was better thought of as “refreshment therapy” to help children relax.

In 2008, the public was outraged after a CCTV report revealed Yang’s internet addiction center had been employing the practice since it was founded in 2006.

Earlier that year, Yang was the subject of a glowing report by CRI, in which the psychiatrist was referred to as “Uncle Yang” by patients who credited him for overcoming their addiction to the internet. As of 2009, parents paid 6,000 yuan ($878) per month to have their children treated at the center.

However, even after the 2009 ban, Yang continued to treat children for internet addiction. According to first hand accounts, Yang is still using electroshock therapy.

Fu Nan (an alias) said he was treated at Yang’s internet addicition center in 2014 when he was just 14 years old. After being abducted against his will on the street, he was taken to the center where he received his first electric shock just half an hour after arriving. “It was like multitudes of needles were pinching my body. Every cell hurt,” Fu recalled.

Internet addiction is not classified as a mental illness in China. China’s National People’s Congress has estimated as much as 10 percent of the country’s under-18 users are addicted to the Internet.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor