Hugging for Chinese people is as rare as speaking English at home.
But free hug campaigns are spreading across the country's
major cities, such as Beijing, making this alien custom more popular.
Dozens of netizens in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province,
have initiated the campaigns, offering a heart-felt hug and smiling faces.
According to Yu Le, founder of the free hug group in Beijing, she drew
inspiration for the action after seeing a video on YouTube (www.youtube.com)
about Juan Mann, an Australian who, noticing how sad everyone looked on the
trips he takes, launched a mission to reach out and hug strangers to brighten
"As a stranger in the city myself, I felt the estrangement and apathy keenly
at times," said Yu, a dancing teacher who gave her age as "in my 20s."
"I felt the impulse to start the group immediately."
Yu posted her activity schedule on her perosnal website, and picked friends
whom she considered sincere in motivation to join her in the campaign.
They hugged AIDS patients, disabled people, helpless migrant workers, and
people in the terminal care wards in hospitals.
"I felt life suddenly brightened by the smiles and warm hugs from a group of
youngsters," a cancer patient surnamed Zhang told a reporter in Beijing. "As a
patient in the late stages of cancer, we need people's affection instead of food
or anything else."
The free hug campaign has spread across the country. Several websites,
including www.baobaotuan.com and www.freehug.com.cn, have been set up by those
They even wanted to designate one day as the Hug Festival, with everyone
encouraged to hug people around them to brighten everybody's lives.
But there have been problems in this Eastern society, where emotions are kept
under control and touching of others is seldom initiated, the hugging of
strangers has prompted fear, misunderstanding, refusals and even attacks.
Many of the hugging youths were scolded by police, mostly for blocking
pedestrians' paths in the ever-more crowded cities. Their "care from strangers"
and "refuse to be apathetic" messages drew attention from many passers-by, but
not their participation.
"If they have the time to hug people, why don't they use the time to do
something more useful and concrete, such as helping someone in need?" said Liu
Zhen, a Peking University student.
But many Chinese still support their action.
Huang Wenqing, 56, of Beijing, said "indifference is a major problem in
current society, which is driven by material profit. I personally approve their
action, and I want to join them in the future."
Slowly but surely, the huggers will win.