Yang Yongxin

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Yang Yongxin
Native name 杨永信
Born (1962-06-00)June , 1962
Linyi, Shandong, China
Residence Linyi
Other names "Uncle Yang"
Education Yishui Medical School
Occupation Clinical psychiatrist
Employer The Fourth Hospital of Linyi (Linyi Mental Hospital)
Known for Using electroconvulsive therapy to treat Internet addiction
Political party
Communist Party of China

Top ten outstanding citizens for minor protection of Shandong

State Council Special Grant[1]

Yang Yongxin (杨永信) is a highly controversial[2] Chinese clinical psychiatrist who advocated and practiced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a cure for Internet addiction in teenagers.[3][4] Yang is currently deputy chief of the Fourth Hospital of Linyi (Linyi Mental Hospital), a hospital in Linyi, Shandong province. Yang runs the Internet Addiction Treatment Center, a boot camp at Linyi Mental Hospital specializing in treating teenage Internet addiction.

According to media reports, the families of teenaged patients sent to the hospital paid CNY 5,500 (US$805) per month for a treatment that employed psychiatric medication in addition to ECT, which Yang dubbed "xingnao" (brain-waking) treatments.[5] Yang treated nearly 3000 children with the therapy before the practice was banned by the Chinese Ministry of Health.[5][6] Yang claimed that 96% of the patients treated by his electric therapy had shown improvement, a figure that was questioned by the Chinese media. After the ban, Yang has begun to use another therapeutic method he invented, known as "low-frequency pulse therapy", which is alleged by former patients to be more painful than ECT.[7]

Early life[edit]

Yang was born in June 1962 in Linyi, Shandong province, China. graduated from Yishui Medical School, a vocational school in Yishui, Shandong, with a degree in Clinical Medicine in 1982. After graduation, he was assigned by the state to the Fourth Hospital of Linyi (also known as Linyi Mental Hospital), where he specializes in treating schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yang was known for writing a series of columns on popular psychology for the local newspaper during his tenure at Linyi Mental Hospital, although his critics allege that the columns were paid-for advertisements for the hospital.

Internet Addiction Treatment[edit]

According to Yang Yongxin, he started to investigate Internet addiction in 1999, when his teenage son began to show "addictive behavior". Yang started practicing ECT as early as 2006. Initially, the Chinese media viewed his work with great enthusiasm, publishing a book called "Fighting the Internet Demon" and producing a documentary film by the same name. Yang was awarded the "Top ten outstanding citizens for protecting the minors of Shandong" by the Shandong province government in 2007.

Yang caused widespread controversy in China when China's most viewed television channel, the state-run CCTV, aired a special coverage of Yang's treatment center in July 2008. The program, titled "Fighting the Internet Demon: Who Turned Our Geniuses into Beasts?", reported positively on Yang's electroconvulsive therapy and sharply criticized the MMORPG World of Warcraft, then popular in China and blamed for many teenagers' purported "Internet addiction". The program initially caused an uproar in China's World of Warcraft community, a sentiment that later spread to most of China's Internet community. Yang's critics revealed some of Yang's most controversial practices, which led to the mainstream media abandoning their praises of Yang's treatment center. Nevertheless, Yang went on to win a State Council grant for excellence in medical science in February 2009.[1]

In May 2009, China Youth Daily, a leading state-run newspaper in China, published a highly negative investigative report on Yang's practices, which received coverage on both the CCTV and other prominent Chinese media. The controversy eventually led to the Chinese Ministry of Health issuing a ban on Yang's use of electroconvulsive therapy. In August, CCTV aired its own investigative report, further questioning the ethics of Yang's treatment center. The report alleged that Yang had received CNY 81 million (US$12.73 million) from his treatment center.

Treatment Program[edit]

In the controversial July 2008 CCTV coverage on Yang's treatment center, Yang claimed that patients with alleged Internet addiction suffered from so-called cognitive and personality disorders.[8] Yang promoted electroconvulsive therapy as a means to remedy such disorders.[9] According to an investigative report, Yang's patients ranged from 12[10] to 30 years of age, most of whom were abducted by their parents or the "Special Operations", an informal branch of the treatment center that consisted of parents and more senior patients, who were rewarded for their participation in abducting new patients.[11] The parents (even those of adult patients) would then sign a contract with the treatment center, in which the parents would place the patients into foster care by the treatment center.[12] After they were admitted, Yang's patients were allegedly placed into a prison-like environment, where they were forced to give away all online accounts and passwords. Reports also show Yang managing his patients in a military style, where he encouraged the patients to act as his informant and threatened resisting patients with ECT, which was claimed by former patients to be used solely as a means of torturing patients.

In addition to electroconvulsive therapy, Yang used psychotropic drugs without the consent of patients or their parents, claiming that the drugs are "dietary supplements". The center also has mandatory sessions with psychiatric counselors, where patients were taught obedience to Yang, whom they were forced to call "Uncle Yang". Yang also warned the patients against asking their parents to take them home, another offense punishable by ECT.

After his use of electroconvulsive therapy was banned, Yang continues to practice using another therapeutic method he invented, known as "low-frequency pulse therapy", which is alleged by former patients to be more painful than electroconvulsive therapy.[7]


Unethical Treatment Controversy[edit]

Electroconvulsive therapy at Yang's treatment center was performed in "Room 13" (later renamed the "Behavioral Correction Therapy Room" after media scrutiny). Yang claimed that electroconvulsive therapy "is only painful for those with Internet addiction"[13] and that the therapeutic machines used "lowered electric current". Investigative reports questioned whether Yang's use of ECT without anesthesia or muscle relaxants on minors, whose informed consent was not obtained, was in violation of the WHO guidelines on electroconvulsive therapy. Reports further accuse Yang of using the therapy as a means of torture. Although ECT had been regulated in some areas in China, Shandong province did not have regulations regarding the therapy.

In response, Yang's supporters claimed that ECT was not the primary form of treatment at the center and that psychiatric counselling was emphasized at the center. Yang stated that admitted patients were shocked only a few times during their treatment. Yang maintained that he was properly licensed in performing ECT, and that his treatment program was fully compliant with Chinese laws and regulations regarding clinical psychology.

Reports also state that Yang applied electric shock to patients' hands, a non-indicated usage that is said to produce more pain, as a punitive measure.

Safety of Therapy[edit]

In 2009, China Youth Daily publicized the news of a patient who escaped from Yang's treatment center. The escaped patient jumped out from a second-floor window at the treatment center. The report alleged that Yang's electroconvulsive therapy triggered cardiac arrhythmia in the escaped patient, questioning the safety of Yang's therapy.

Legality of Therapy[edit]

Some commentators called Yang's practice a violation to the basic human rights of the patients. Critics contend that Yang's abduction of his patients and use of electroconvulsive therapy may have violated Chinese laws on the protection of minors and may have constituted aggravated assault.[14] Critics maintain that Yang's failure to obtain informed consent may also be in violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed but not ratified.

The machine Yang practiced electroconvulsive therapy with is a DX-IIA ECT device, manufactured by a Shanghai pharmaceutical company from 1996 to 2000. The manufacturer warned of impaired cognition as a side effect. Chinese health regulation had stopped the device from being manufactured since 2000, and reports brought into question whether Yang acquired these devices illegally.

Clinical Trial Controversy[edit]

In 2006, Yang claimed to have invented a formula of Chinese traditional medicine that is effective in treating Internet addiction. Yang applied for a patent for his formula, although the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office has not responded to his application. Yang's patent application claims that he had conducted a clinical trial with 300 patients at his treatment center, and that all 300 patients were "completely cured of their addiction by the medication".[15] The patients' informed consent was not sought, and minors as young as 14 years of age were involved in the clinical trial.

Diagnostic Standard[edit]

Critics have raised questions about Yang Yongxin's diagnostic standard, claiming that Yang would admit anyone brought to his treatment center. Yang's published "diagnostic test" is criticized as remarkably lax, as almost any choices on the test will be diagnosed as Internet addiction. In July 2009, celebrity Chinese scholar and anti-pseudoscience crusader Fang Zhouzi published an essay that criticized the notion of Internet addiction and questioned the ethics of electroconvulsive therapy without anesthesia.[3]

Government Ban[edit]

In July 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Health issued an official ban on the use of electroconvulsive therapy in treating Internet addiction, citing a lack of evidence in its effectiveness. However, Yang's treatment center continued to operate after the ban; critics protested that Yang's new therapeutic methods were designed to torture the patients and called for an end to Yang's practice altogether.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "杨永信:走进网瘾者心灵深处" (in zh-cn). Xinhua. 2009-03-13. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  2. ^ "China Reins in Wilder Impulses in Treatment of 'Internet Addiction'" (in en-US). Science. 2009-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b 方舟子 (2008-10-27). ""网瘾"是不是病?" (in zh-cn). China Youth Daily. 
  4. ^ Sheridan, Michael (2009-06-07). "China's parents try shock tactics to cure net 'addicts'" (in en-UK). London: The Times. 
  5. ^ a b Moore, Malcolm (2009-07-15). "China bans electric shock therapy for internet addicts" (in en-UK). London: Telegraph. 
  6. ^ "China Stops Shock Therapy for Internet Addicts". The Associated Press (in en-US). ABC News. 2009-07-14. 
  7. ^ a b "电击疗法被叫停 杨永信网戒中心推出"新武器"" (in zh-CN). Sina.com. 2009-11-23. 
  8. ^ "战网魔:谁把天才变成了魔兽". CCTV-12 (in zh-cn). Tudou.com. 2008-07-02. 
  9. ^ Yang Yongxin (2009-03-11). "战网魔:谁把天才变成了魔兽". 中国医药报 (in zh-cn). Yang's personal website. 
  10. ^ 刘明银《战网魔》第三章 网络公主的杏花春雨(1)
  11. ^ "暗访杨永信网瘾戒治中心:杨永信和传销一个样". 都市时报(City Times) (in zh-cn). 搜狐网健康频道. 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  12. ^ "杨永信网瘾中心再追踪:女孩唱舞娘也遭电击". 南方人物周刊. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  13. ^ "一个网戒中心的生态系统" (in zh-CN). China Youth Daily. 2009-05-07. 
  14. ^ "杨永信:天使还是恶魔?". China Netizen. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  15. ^ "CN200610138322.8 一种治疗网瘾的药物". State Intellectual Property Office. 

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