Crouched and half-naked, save for a shirt, underwear and the shackles around his feet – that was how a mentally ill Chinese man spent his days in the desolate steel cage he was forced to call home for over ten years.

Wu Yuanhong now stares blankly with eyes that give no indication of the boy he was before being diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 15, his plight coming to light after a picture showing him was widely circulated after appearing in state media.

In 2001, he reportedly beat a 13-year-old to death in his local village in Jiangxi province. But his condition meant he could not be held responsible for his actions, prompting his release, reports AFP.

Since then, he was shackled and put in the narrow structure, with a pan for a toilet and blankets for a bed. His mother, Wang Muxiang, dutifully feeds her son three times every day, in what seems to be the only way she knows how to show love for her now 42-year-old son.

“My son may be insane, and beat someone to death, but he’s still my son. To use my own hands to place him in a cage was very hard to take, like being stabbed with a knife,” the Information Daily newspaper quoted Wang as saying.

“Every time I delivered food, I would sit at his cage and cry,” she said. “Now my tears dried up”.

Wang’s plight reflects that of dozens of mentally ill people in China, mostly in rural places, who go without proper treatment due to a lack of resources and qualified professionals.