Morning formation at an Internet addiction facility  (Source: AFP)
So-called Internet addicts are safe from physical abuse by counselors

Teenagers in China reportedly addicted to the internet can no longer endure physical punishment as "counselors" attempt to help them.

The "treatment" centers located across China closely mimic military schools in the western world, and feature hours of rigorous exercise and counseling.

"When intervening to prevent improper use of the internet we should... strictly prohibit restriction of personal freedom and physical punishments," according to the Chinese Ministry of Health.

The global political pressure has forced the Chinese government's action. China normally rejects Western advice considering national issues, but there has been growing outrage following several high-profile incidents including several injuries and at least one confirmed death.

In November 2008, China officially deemed internet addiction a mental disorder, with Western psychiatrists and psychologists unwilling to jump to such conclusions so soon.

Deng Senshan, a 15-year old sent to the Qihang Salvation Training Camp, died after being at the facility for less than 24 hours.  There have been several other cases of injuries sustained from beating and electroshock treatment -- which was officially banned by the Chinese government in July -- as the training of counselors at such facilities remains questionable.

Until strict guidelines are developed to combat abuse and maltreatment at these locations, it is expected to continue, human rights observers note.

As a growing number of internet users in China -- which tops more than 300 million -- become addicted to the internet, ministry officials continue to look for methods to reduce the number of possible health issues related to internet addiction.

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