Tibetan Businessman Detained by China Still Missing After Five Months

Tenzin Choephel was taken into custody by police in late March and has not been heard from since.

Tibetan businessman Tenzin Choephel is shown in an undated photo.

A Tibetan businessman picked up by Chinese police at an airport near Lhasa in March is still missing almost five months later, with relatives fearing he may be tortured in detention, Tibetan sources say.

Tenzin Choephel, a native of Nagchu prefecture in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, was taken into custody at Gongkar airport on a return flight from Chengdu, capital of western China’s Sichuan province, a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“There is no information regarding where he was taken, or where he is being held right now,” RFA’s source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“All his relatives and friends are very concerned and worried about his safety and well being,” he said.

“When police came to search his house later, they found some political literature and photos of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama in his possession,” he said.

“But nobody knows for certain what the reasons are for the Chinese authorities’ abrupt action against him.”

Worked for Tibetan unity

Choephel, aged in his 40s and unmarried, comes from Sharong Tachen Village No. 5 in the Nagchu metropolitan area and has contributed in the past to projects supporting Tibet’s environment and the study of Tibetan history, RFA’s source said.

“He has also worked hard to promote the unity of the Tibetan people,” he said, adding, “Several years ago, and at his own expense, he successfully lobbied Chinese officials from the county up to the prefectural level to protect sacred mountains in Nagchu from mining projects.”

In 2015, Ngawang Gyaltsen, a monk from Nagchu’s Shak Rongpo monastery, was secretly detained by the Chinese police and was severely tortured while in custody before being sentenced to four years in prison, the source said.

“Relatives of Tenzin Choephel fear that he may also suffer a similar fate at the hands of the Chinese,” he said.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.