BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese appear not to have warmed to a “free hugs” campaign aimed at cheering up strangers by hugging them on the street, with some huggers even being hauled away by police for questioning, media said Monday.
The campaign hit the streets of Beijing, Changsha and Xian this weekend, with participants opening their arms to embrace passers-by and brandishing cards saying “free hugs,” “care from strangers,” “refuse to be apathetic,” the Beijing News said.
In the capital, police moved in and took away four huggers briefly for questioning, baffled by their wacky, Western activities on a busy city-center shopping street.
In the ancient capital of Xian, home to the terracotta warriors, no more than 20 people, mostly children, had volunteered for the free hugs in two hours.
“Passers-by showed interest and curiosity, stopped and asked, but most of them walked away after hearing the explanation,” Xinhua news agency said, quoting a local newspaper.
“Embracing is a foreign tradition. Chinese are not accustomed to this,” a man named Li, a Xi’an citizen, was quoted as saying.
The ancient city of Changsha, capital of Hunan province, fared better, a local affairs Web site reported.
“Though some people refused (to be hugged), I hugged 20 people in one minute,” one girl was quoted as saying.
The Free Hugs campaign started in Australia and gained fame with a music video this year.