China dating app helps gay men banish the blues - and AIDS

Thu Jan 8, 2015 2:36am EST
 
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Hua Ruobin started using Blued two years ago to meet other gay men in China, setting up weekend dinners or dates in karaoke bars.

The gay dating app has been a godsend for Hua, allowing the university student in the southern city of Guangzhou to privately contact Chinese men seeking same-sex companionship.

Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but remains a taboo subject in the world's most populous country.

"I found nine (gay friends) through the app," said Hua, 22, who felt he could never talk to his heterosexual friends about being gay. "Now I have a group of friends just like me to whom I can open my mind."

Blued is the brainchild of Ma Baoli, 36, a former policeman who quit his job to play Cupid to millions of gay men in China.

The free Chinese-language app uses the GPS capability of users' smartphones to identify nearby members. As with other dating apps, users can scan profiles, chat privately with the potential Mr Right or hang out in a group chatroom.

Blued quickly found favor with gay people, adding 15 million users in two years. There is scope for expansion, with Ma's company raising $30 million last year from a U.S. venture capital firm. Its long-term goal is to list on the Nasdaq.

"That would be an even better way to show off China's development than a big advertisement in Times Square," said Ma, referring to New York's most famous intersection.

  Continued...

 
Ma Baoli, founder of Blue City,  parent company of Chinese gay dating app Blued, supervises his staff at the company's office in Beijing,  January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Guo Yeqi