By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) - Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is becoming less influential, both abroad and in Tibet, but his suggestion he will not reincarnate is still a "betrayal" of the religion and the country, a top Chinese official said on Wednesday.
China says the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, is a violent separatist. The Buddhist monk denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is these days being received by fewer and fewer foreign leaders, because of the anger it draws from China, the world's second-largest economy.
Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to China's parliament, said such meetings would cause these people "who don't know right from wrong" to "lose status" in the eyes of Chinese people.
"At the same time, the international media is less and less interested in the Dalai Lama," Zhu, known for his hardline stance on Tibet, told reporters on the sidelines of parliament's annual session.
Even in Tibet, he is exerting less influence, as demonstrated by the decline in the number of people immolating themselves, Zhu added.
Dozens of Tibetans have set themselves ablaze to protest Chinese rule over the past six years. The Dalai Lama has always denied encouraging the immolations.
"I think that Tibet's development ... has made the situation in Tibet better and better, and this is the basic reason for the fall in the Dalai Lama's international standing," he said.
Zhu also accused the Dalai Lama of betraying, and being disrespectful toward, the Tibetan religion and the country by saying there might be no more reincarnations.
Tibetan Buddhism holds that the soul of a senior lama is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death. China says the tradition must continue and it must approve the next Dalai Lama, though he has suggested the title could end when he dies.
"One minute he will reincarnate as a foreigner ... the next as a woman. If you gave him a jar of honey, he'll happily tell you that in his next life he'll be a bee," added Zhu, who was heavily involved in the past in Beijing's failed efforts to talk to the Dalai Lama's representatives.
Tibet's Chinese-appointed governor this week accused the Dalai Lama of blasphemy for doubting reincarnation, drawing a stinging rebuke from the Tibetan prime minister in exile.
(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)