Guangdong man vows to bring 'free hugs' campaign to Urumqi

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am

After all the violence in Urumqi this year, the people there could certainly use a hug.

That is why a mind-training teacher from Foshan, Guangdong, plans to relaunch his 'free hugs' campaign on the streets of the Xinjiang capital after his initial effort was thwarted by police.

Lin Ei, 40, who is known by his nickname 'Lin A', said he had applied to Urumqi police to restart the campaign, hopefully late this month.

'The campaign is aimed at encouraging harmony among different ethnic groups, with communication and mutual trust from the bottom of our hearts being our core purpose,' he said. 'Launching such a campaign is full of challenges, but it's also very significant in the aftermath of the July 5 incident this year.'

Ethnic violence between Han Chinese and Uygurs that day left nearly 200 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

Lin says he has trained more than 150,000 students nationwide, most of whom are now small and medium-sized enterprise owners, since beginning his courses in 2002.

He said he visited Urumqi late last month for a three-day course. Fifty-seven people took part, including many Han Chinese and ethnic Uygur chief executive officers or entrepreneurs, he said.

On the last day of the course, he scheduled the launch of a 'free hugs campaign' in People's Square - the best-known landmark in the area - where he would encourage his students to hug total strangers. Although the campaign had been a success in other cities across the nation, he and his assistant were taken away by Urumqi police on November 30, the day before the 'hugathon'.

'The police believed I was a troublemaker or a separatist,' Lin wrote on his blog. 'It was a sleepless night ... and my assistant and I were finally released after being questioned for the whole of the next day.'

Lin and his aide were sent to the airport, but because of bad weather their flight to Guangdong was delayed by a day, and Lin was allowed to stay in a hotel.

'I found an opportunity to launch a 20-minute free-hug test on the street after the police left,' he said.

'The result surprised me, as 98 per cent of the people were willing to give me a warm hug. Almost all of them were ethnic Uygurs, no matter young or old, men or women. In the inner cities, 70 to 80 per cent was the best result.'

He said even the police officer who detained and questioned him finally trusted him and became his friend.

'He also gave me a warm hug when we said goodbye as he saw me off at the airport,' said Lin, chief executive of two enterprises in Foshan with thousands of employees. 'The police officer also told me that they wouldn't allow any functions in People's Square because of the sensitive situation after the July 5 incident.'