Early love in middle school and wishing to study abroad can lead one to be beaten and given electric shocks, said Zhu Xinhai, an 18-year-old who has just arrived in the United States for his higher education.
Mr. Zhu was sent to a correctional school at the Xi’an Youth Military Training Youth Education Base at the age of 15 in 2019. Due to puppy love affecting his academic record, he was sent to the school by his parents for six months.
The six-month-long experience became a nightmare he would write about several years later.
His time at the correctional school began brutally when its staff picked him up.
“Two strong and strange men came to my house. They lied that they were the staff of a fall recreational camp and were only taking me to this camp to meet my parents,” he wrote in a Chinese statement seen by The Epoch Times.
“After leaving the house, they put me in a white van and made me sit in the innermost part of the seat. The van drove from the center of the city to the eastern suburbs ... I got out of the car, and there was no sign of my parents. They guided me into a narrow corridor on the first floor of a building."
He then fully realized there wasn't any such thing as a recreational camp.
“They pushed me into a room that had a barred door with a protective mesh on the windows … The drillmaster scolded me loudly and punched me on my left cheek. I was knocked down in the corner. This was followed by a rain of fists from the drillmaster and the other man—a veteran student, with both yelling at me.”
For the next six months, Mr. Zhu lost his freedom and was forced to do intense physical training every day with other students at the correctional school at the Xi’an Youth Military Training Youth Education Base.
There, they were asked to write letters of reflection as required by the drillmasters. If any part was deemed incorrectly done, it would result in a beating.
All students in the correctional school were under 18, Mr. Zhu said.
Beaten for Wishing to Study in USIn his statement, Mr. Zhu said he was kicked to the ground by a drillmaster due to a reflection letter he wrote where he pleaded with his mother to take him out of the correctional school. He also explained his plans to study abroad, promising that he would take the initiative to take the IELTS test and apply to an American high school.
“Do you want to be a traitor? You want to study in America?” the drillmaster shouted.
The same drillmaster later used a police-electric baton to shock him after a quarrel.
Mr. Zhu said many of the drillmasters at the camp are retired Chinese soldiers with strong nationalist sentiments.
In April 2020, Mr. Zhu was allowed to leave the school to buy meals for the drill masters. He took the chance to flee back home.
Upon learning the actual situation inside the school, the teen's parents apologized to him and argued with the school, saying that it did not disclose any information about the use of corporal punishment against students in the contract they signed.
The family contacted the Department of Education and the local police station. Citing the contract Mr. Zhu’s parents signed with the school, the police did not place it as a case for investigation.
“One police officer asked for the school’s official website and said they might try to contact the school. We’ve been waiting for updates, but there’s nothing after that,” he recalled.
After arriving in the United States in 2022 to begin college, Mr. Zhu accidentally came across the school’s website. Learning that it was still operating, he said he was furious.
He then made posts on the popular Chinese social media Weibo, that exposed the camp, which attracted over 40,000 views then.
Mr. Zhu also received a WeChat message from a drillmaster of the school.
“If you don’t delete that article, I know your home address; I will find your parents,” read the message.
The Weibo post, which accused local police and authorities of non-action, was later deleted.
School Admits Luring StudentsAlex, another student who is now in China and chose to use a pseudonym, said he could relate to Mr. Zhu’s experience.
Alex was lured into the Youth Quality Education Training School in Xiangtan City, Hunan Province of Southern China, in February and stayed there for two months.
“The drillmaster tied him up and beat B [another student] with a bedpan and even beat him with a PVC hose. When I saw B again, his whole body was black and blue,” he wrote about his experience in the Youth Quality Education Training School.
Another student slit his wrists with a sharp object in the dormitory after being verbally abused by the drillmaster.
“There was blood all over the ground, but he did not die.”
If in a bad mood, drillmasters could ask all students to assemble in the middle of the night at 2 or 3 a.m., according to Alex.
Steel plates and bars can be seen in the school everywhere.
“These two months of my life were the most painful I’ve ever lived. I was always looking for freedom and equality. Every second in there was torture. I truly experienced the value of civilization and the loss of human rights,” he said.
Alex could leave after a fellow student went to the hospital and smuggled out a letter for him to be sent to his family.
“It had all sorts of apologizing and begging for help, and [their] phone number. I asked him to mail it. It took [me] two months to get out.”
Alex and his family did not think about seeking help from local authorities since he saw some students had been sent to the camp by local police.
“The issue of human rights in China has never been taken seriously,” he said.
A staff member at the Youth Quality Education Training School denied any corporal punishment but admitted students there were lured into the school in the first place.
Over 2,000 Correctional Schools Across ChinaIn 2017, Yuzhang Academy, a self-touted Confucian reform school that could purportedly “eliminate children’s bad problems,” attracted widespread attention after its human rights abuses were exposed.
In the advertisements of these schools, phrases such as “to save the rebellious, anorexic, internet-addicted, early love, runaway, autistic, low self-esteem of the problem children,” are used.
“Personality quality enhancement, thanksgiving education, inspirational education, national education” are also widely seen.
Many parents, believing in the advertisements and wishing to solve their education problems, have sent their children to these schools with tuition ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 yuan (about $4,100 to $7,840) a year.
Based on The Epoch Times’ investigation, most students are 13 or 14-year-old junior high school students and are both male and female. Some schools also have eight or nine-year-old elementary school students and adults up to their 40s. The reasons for entering these schools vary, including drug addiction, LGBT, and mental issues.