A senior Chinese official has denounced the Dalai Lama's long-standing pursuit of autonomy for Tibet.

He described it as equivalent to advocating Tibetan independence, state media reported.

The comments signal that China is unlikely to seek any compromise with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, is considered a violent separatist by Beijing.

Based in India, the spiritual leader says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

The critical comments were made by Zhu Weiqunm, chairman of the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the top advisory body to parliament. 

The Dalai Lama's brand of autonomy "is against China's autonomy system," Mr Zhu was quoted. 

"It does nothing but insert secessionist elements into China's regional ethnic autonomy law," he added. 

The Dalai Lama's approach, called the "Middle Way" by Tibetans, seeks a Hong Kong-style autonomy for the region.

Tibetans would have to have respect Chinese sovereignty over their homeland but have a greater say over religious and cultural affairs.

Some Tibetan activists have expressed frustration with the "Middle Way" and have pressed for independence, not just autonomy.

Years of autonomy talks between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government broke down in 2010.

Tensions over the issue are at their highest in years.

There has been a spate of self-immolation protests by Tibetans, which have led to an intensified security crackdown.

More than 120 Tibetans have set themselves alight since 2009, mainly in heavily ethnic Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces rather than in what China terms the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Most of those who set themselves on fire have died.

China defends its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the region suffered from dire poverty.

It also claimed that there had been brutal exploitation of serfs and economic stagnation until 1950.

China says that Communist troops "peacefully liberated" Tibet and introduced "democratic reforms" in 1959.

On Monday, China denounced a decision by a Spanish criminal court to indict former Chinese president Hu Jintao for genocide as part of an investigation into whether his government committed abuses in Tibet.