Qungdag found the outside world entirely different when he walked out of the Prison of Tibet Autonomous Region after serving his 8-year term there.
The former simple street was flanked by skyscrapers, billboards and shop windows with a dazzling array of goods.
"I was greeted by a new environment, in which there was fierce competition, but no discrimination," said Qungdag, who is famous in his community for getting rich through honest work.
Qungdag, 40, is a native of Dapchi County in Lhasa City. He was sentenced to an eight-year sentence in 1987 for illegal activities and was discharged in 1995 after serving his term in prison.
"Soon after I was released, I felt at a loss. I had no job and stayed idle for a while," he recalled.
Later, he found that the local government encourages individuals into private enterprise. The commercial, public security and taxation departments provide favorable conditions for those who start a legal business.
Persuaded by his relatives, Qungdag opened a teahouse in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. Business soon boomed.
"I built up experience in business management when I served as a member of the prison catering management committee. And it worked in running the teahouse," he said.
The prison catering management committee is an organization composed of prisoners. The job helped make Qungdag familiar with price fluctuation laws in buying grains and vegetables and taught him accounting and food budgeting.
Finding that shopping was inconvenient in Dapchi County, Qungdag opened his first shop in his hometown, selling tea, butter, alcohol, and cigarettes etc. When mechanized farm tools became popular, he started selling farm machinery.
The government of Deqen County, where another of Qungdag's shops is located, asked him to set up a jointly-owned shop and invited him to be general manager.
So far Qungdag has opened three shops which have combined assets of 240,000 (US$28,915) yuan. Their daily sales range in value from 6,000 (US$720) to 7,000 (US$840) yuan.
The rise in sales depends on improvements in the living standards of local residents. At first, he had only a few customers and they used to buy cheap goods, he said. Now, customers look out for the brand and quality of products.
"I benefited a lot from the skills and managerial experience I learned in prison. More importantly, I realized it was stupid to commit the offences for which I was jailed," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency May 29, 2002)