The suspicious death of the young man occurred earlier this month, at an illegal internet addiction rehabilitation school in Anhui province, in the country’s east, reports local paper Anhui Business News.
Concerned for her son Li Ao’s wellbeing, the teen’s mother, identified only by her surname Liu, sent him to the Positive Energy Education center in the city of Fuyang.
To treat what his mother described as a serious internet addiction, the center reportedly used a combination of “psychological counselling and physical training.”
Before she enrolled her son, Liu was assured by a staff member that the center’s methods were “gentle” and did not involve the use of corporal punishment. Liu signed her son up at a cost of 22,800 yuan ($3,420) for a period of 180 days.
Liu enrolled Li Ao on August 3 but, less than two days later, was informed that he had been rushed to hospital where he died, allegedly from injuries sustained at the camp.
The cause of death has yet to be determined, though the director of the center and a number of staff members have been held by police.
The distraught mother told the paper that her son’s body was “completely covered with scars, from top to toe.”
“When I sent my son to the center he was still fine, how could he have died within 48 hours?” she asked.
A postmortem examination on the boy identified 20 external wounds on his body as well as signs of internal bleeding.
Use of these centers, many of which are illegal, has become a hot topic in China. Some reportedly use barbaric tactics, such as corporal punishment and electroshock therapy (EST), to treat internet addiction.
Earlier this year, Chinese lawmakers banned the use of EST in treatment.
Last September, the centers were once again placed under the spotlight after it was reported that a young girl, sent to one such facility by her mother where she was allegedly abused, returned home and murdered her.
The 16 year old reportedly tied her mother to a chair, held her captive and starved her to death.