Associates of one of Tibet's richest businessmen say Dorje Tashi has been sentenced to life in prison on charges of helping Tibetan exile groups.

People close to the prominent hotel owner's family told VOA's Tibetan service the sentence was delivered on June 26 but has not been made public by the Chinese government. The sentence is also reported by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

The Associated Press quoted that India-based group saying Dorje Tashi, owner of the famed Yak Hotel, was accused of "funding some outside Tibetan groups." No further details of the charges were available.

China has cracked down on dissent in Tibet since riots in 2008 left at least 22 people dead. But observers were surprised at the harshness of the sentence given to Dorje Tashi, who is reported to have joined the Communist Party and worked closely with authorities.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.