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Free Hugs to Warm Your Heart
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Four young men made a happy scene by offering hugs to strangers on Saturday at Wangfujing Street, the busy pedestrian mall in Beijing. They held signs in Chinese and English that read "free hugs", "care from a stranger" and "no apathy."

Their bizarre behavior attracted the attention of many passers-by, and a young foreigner was the first to step up and receive a hug. After him, several Chinese young men and children got hugs, too. And more people, including a mother with her five-year-old daughter, joined in on the hug offers.

According to one of the four hugging men, who called themselves the "hug fellowship," they were friends that met on the Internet. Impressed by the"hugging campaigns" that some "hug fellows" had initiated in Changsha, the capital of central China's Hunan Province, they decided to do the same in Beijing, the capital of China, to promote warmth between strangers in a society where people are becoming more apathetic.

However, the hug offering only lasted for an hour before a police officer came and took away the four young men. They returned later and told their "fellows" via the Internet that the police officer just wanted to make sure they were doing nothing against the law. But they refused media interviews.

The "hugging campaign" was imported to China by an advertising worker named Cai Zihao. He happened to watch a video on the Internet about a man who tried to spread love and caring by offering hugs to strangers in the downtown of a foreign city, and was so deeply touched that he started a hug-offering group in Changsha. Inspired by the Changsha group, other "hug fellowships" were established in Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Tianjin. The "hug fellows" are mostly young people who get to know each other via the Internet.

(CRI October 30, 2006)

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