"If the present situation is the same in 15 years then I think Tibet is finished," he said.
 
Chinese warning
 
The Dalai Lama's visit to Australia has sparked heated debate among Australian political leaders over whether to risk upsetting important trade ties with China by meeting the Tibetan leader.
 

Tibet key dates


1950 Chinese military invades Tibet

1959 Dalai Lama flees to exile in India after failed uprising

1960s-70s Hundreds of monasteries destroyed during Chinese Cultural Revolution

1965 China announces creation of Tibet Autonomous Region

1987 Dalai Lama awarded Nobel Peace Prize for leading non-violent struggle for Tibet

2006 China opens first rail line to Tibet

The Dalai Lama is set to visit Canberra later this month, prompting the Chinese foreign ministry to warn Australian officials against meeting with the Tibetan leader.

 
John Howard, the Australian prime minister, is unlikely to meet the exiled leader, with officials citing a tight work schedule.
 
Commenting on the issue, the Dalai Lama said on Thursday it was "no problem" if Howard did not wish to meet with him.
 
"China is a very, very important country, and trade with China is certainly very important," he said.
 
"So, there's no question that is why the prime minister finds it a little difficult, that's understandable."
 

Australia is enjoying an economic boom built on the back of record Chinese demand for natural resources.

 

'Splittist'

 
China regularly warns foreign leaders
against meeting the Dalai Lama [AFP]
The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed uprising, is one of the figures most reviled by the Chinese leadership, which has labelled him a "splittist", accusing him of waging a clandestine campaign for formal independence.
 
Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.
 

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule and now heads a Tibetan government in exile in the Indian Himalayan town of Dharamsala.

 
China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries but many Tibetans maintain their homeland was, for most of that time, an independent state.
 
It regularly expresses displeasure when foreign leaders meet with the Dalai Lama.