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BEIJING (Reuters) - Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is drawing less and less attention in the West and manages to win eyeballs only with pointless suggestions that his title will die out with him, a top Chinese official told state media.
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.
But the Nobel peace laureate has said he thinks the title could end when he dies, comments he repeated this week.
Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to China's parliament, told the state-run Global Times in remarks published on Friday that the Dalai Lama had no right to play with established custom.
"Only the central government can decide on keeping, or getting rid of, the Dalai Lama's lineage, and the 14th Dalai Lama does not have the final say," Zhu said, referring to the present incumbent.
The Dalai Lama has suffered numerous setbacks in recent years while Tibetan regions have maintained their stability, said Zhu, who was heavily involved in the past in Beijing's failed efforts to talk to the Dalai Lama's representatives.
"At the same time, the attention of public opinion in the West to the Dalai Lama is going down by the day," he added.
"The Dalai Lama also has no good ideas. All he can do is use his religious title to write about the continuation or not of the Dalai Lama to get eyeballs overseas."
Tibet, along with Xinjiang, is one of China's most sensitive areas when it comes to foreign criticism of its human rights record. Tibet, in particular, is an emotive issue in the West, drawing high-profile support from politicians and celebrities.
Zhu is known for his hardline stance on Tibet. In February, he wrote that China had time on its side in winning the West over to its point of view on Tibet and Xinjiang.
Communist Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1950. China says it "peacefully liberated" a remote mountainous region mired in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation.
Exiles and rights groups say China tramples on the region's unique culture and has little respect for its people's Buddhist faith.
The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez