HONG KONG • Angry with her mother for sending her to an Internet addiction boot camp, 16-year-old Chen Xinran tied the woman to a chair and left her there to die.
The teenager from Heilongjiang province has since turned herself in. The shocking case made headlines last month as China's Internet regulators grapple with the problem of youth Internet addiction.
According to the China Internet Network Information Centre, the total number of Internet users in China has reached 750 million, the highest in the world. As of June this year, around one in five of them was aged below 19.
The National People's Congress, China's Parliament, estimates that 10 per cent of Chinese children using the Internet are addicts and that most addicts are male.
In 2008, China became the first country to recognise Internet addiction as a clinical disorder, reported the Sixth Tone news website.
Health officials divided it into five categories of addiction: online games, social networking, shopping, pornography and the nebulous "Internet information".
In its latest push to combat Internet addiction, the Cyberspace Administration of China issued draft national regulations last week to ban children from playing online games after midnight.
It also called on schools to work with "institutions" to help rehabilitate young Internet addicts.
If the regulations go into effect, Web game developers would have to block minors from playing online games from midnight to 8am, the South China Morning Post reported.
Anybody under the age of 18 would have to register for the games with their identification and the information would be stored on the game operator's servers.
The games should be designed to deter young people from becoming addicted and software should be developed to detect underage users.
The draft rules are open to public feedback till the end of the month, according to the Chinese media.
In 2007, the authorities issued a notice requiring all Web game operators to install systems to prevent addiction, such as deducting points from young players if they spend more than three hours on a game.
Mr Su Jun, a Shanghai-based senior Web game developer, said the proposed regulations could make a slight dent in gaming companies' revenue as teen gamers are usually active after midnight.
Experts are worried that the new regulations could lead to even more military-style boot camps for Internet addicts. "More such boot camps might emerge after the passage of the regulations. It will encourage more people to get into the 'business'," lawyer Wang Qiushi told the South China Morning Post.
In the Heilongjiang case, the teenager said she was regularly beaten and abused by staff at the boot camp after she was forcibly taken there earlier this year. She escaped after "four months of hell", the Chinese media reported. In 2014, a 19-year-old girl died at a similar boot camp in Henan province.