A group of more than 30 people in their 20s appeared downtown on
Saturday to ask for hugs from strangers to bolster a sense of
hospitality in Shanghai.
The embracing effort, initiated by a call on the Internet, was
soon stopped by police.
An online game developer, known as Bai Gu online, initiated the
He said he was moved by a video about an activity called "free
hugs" carried out in Changsha, Hunan Province on the Internet and
decided to organize a similar activity in Shanghai.
"Everyone will meet many strangers every day and most people
show alert, rejection and even hostility in their eyes. To protect
ourselves, we choose to keep distance from each other," said Bai
Gu. "In fact many strangers are friendly. I think a sincere hug can
get more warmth and understanding while estrangement will only
bring misunderstanding and hurt."
His call soon attracted many Internet writers. Participants went
to the crowded Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall on Saturday afternoon,
holding plates bearing words like "free hugs."
The group soon caused attention from the crowd but most people
just watched and whispered to each other. About 50 people hugged
with the participants, including some children.
Some old people said they weren't accustomed to such
"I don't like to be hugged by strangers. There are many ways to
express love and the behavior should go with our traditional
etiquette," said an old woman surnamed Wang who brought her
granddaughter to the pedestrian mall.
After 20 minutes, the participants were stopped by police and
taken to the police station.
When police learned the purpose of the activity, they suggested
the group give up to prevent chaos or trouble.
Bai Gu said he didn't expect the activity would be ended that
way, but plans to change the way his participants can inspire a
feeling of love from strangers in the city.
Gu Xiaoming, a local sociologist, said the activity shows good
will, but he questioned the wisdom of the activity on such a
(Shanghai Daily November 6, 2006)