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But in one section, up a hill covered in vegetation, men — old and young, well-dressed and casual, married and single — stroll on stone-paved lanes, making eye contact with others.

Dongdan nevertheless provides something an app cannot: Immediate opportunities to interact face to face.

Some gossip about a news anchor they believe actually died of AIDS instead of the "official" cause. " said a 32-year-old clothing wholesaler in a bright orange T-shirt and hair dyed to match.

Others forgo small talk for blunt queries about their preferred style of sex. "Nobody outside knows I'm gay."Although the park is in some ways a refuge, thieves are known to lurk.

"Lady Paris," was arrested by police officers after visiting Dongdan Park in Beijing — the third time he was charged with "hooliganism" in seven years.

Sent to a labor camp for three years, Ning, now 77 and known as "Granny Paris," still keeps returning to the scene of his alleged crimes."It's like home," said Ning, who earned his exotic nickname in the 1960s after having a dalliance with a chef from Paris who was working for the French Embassy in Beijing.

"We can talk freely about what we've been hiding from our families and co-workers." For more than three decades, Dongdan Park, one mile east of Tiananmen Square, has attracted gay men from across China.Some seek a long-term love interest, some a one-time sex partner, others friendship.China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from its official list of mental illnesses four years later.Though same-sex marriage has not been legalized, Chinese media regularly report on high-profile gay home weddings and gay couples getting marriage certificates in the United States.But for many gay Chinese, it is still difficult to buck social pressure to find a spouse of the opposite sex and have children.Confucian ideology makes no allowances for homosexuality, and there are no legal protections against discrimination. At first glance, it looks no different from other Beijing parks: In an open plaza, middle-age women dance to catchy pop songs while elderly men clamor over Chinese chess in front of a statue saluting workers, peasants and soldiers of the 1960s Cultural Revolution.

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