It was very different in the 1990s when, as a young man, Mr Ma risked being sent to a labour camp for “hooliganism”, the crime then attached to homosexual behaviour, by scrawling “I’m gay” on public-lavatory walls in the hope of meeting partners. Homosexuality was not decriminalised until 1997. Now the government is far more tolerant. In 2012 Li Keqiang, who was then a deputy prime-minister (he is now prime minister), met Mr Ma and praised his efforts to help to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. In late January a court in the southern city of Shenzhen became the first in the country to hear a case involving alleged discrimination against a gay man (who says he was fired for being homosexual). A verdict is expected in a few weeks.
As Blued’s user-base grows, Mr Ma plans to add features such as an e-commerce function. He also wants to break into new markets. In February Blue City is due to launch an English-language version of Blued. It will be aimed at gay men worldwide.