WASHINGTON - The Dalai Lama said Chinese rule was a "death sentence" for Tibetan heritage but stressed the future looked brighter for his people as China itself modernizes.
In a CNN interview broadcast Sunday, the 73-year-old spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists also said his reincarnation would be found in the "free world" rather than in Chinese-occupied Tibet.
Chinese hardliners were guilty of "cultural genocide" in their assault on Tibet's way of life, he said.
Speaking in English, he said the vast majority of Tibetans were "very unhappy" as they saw their "cultural heritage passing through something like a death sentence."
Viewed locally, the Dalai Lama said, Tibet's prospects appear "hopeless" as communist rulers look to flood his homeland with ethnic-Chinese settlers and dilute its Buddhist culture.
"If we look at Tibetan issue from wider perspective, I feel much hope because China is changing," he said, also noting strong public support for Tibet in Europe and North America.
"And then on the other hand, the Tibetan spirit inside Tibet is wonderful."
The Dalai Lama has frequently said he wants to retire but has kept up a frenetic travel schedule. The Nobel Peace laureate is currently touring the United States, but he does not plan to visit Washington.
He is expected to return to the United States in October, when he hopes to meet with President Barack Obama.
China should see the Dalai Lama as "part of the solution" on Tibet instead of trying to isolate him, Obama's top Asia adviser Jeff Bader said on May 1.
But Beijing brands the Dalai Lama a separatist and has stepped up pressure on world leaders, including Obama, not to meet with him. The Buddhist leader fled to India 50 years ago as China crushed an abortive uprising in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama, an advocate of non-violence, says he is only seeking greater rights for Tibetans under Chinese rule.
However, he told CNN that his vision of a Tibetan homeland took in parts of five Chinese provinces lying beyond what Beijing styles as the Tibet Autonomous Region.
"All in part they are Tibetan there," he said. "My definition of Tibet are those people who speak Tibetan, who practice Tibetan culture."
The Dalai Lama rejected China's insistence that it will select the boy reincarnation who will become Tibet's next Buddhist leader.
The next Dalai Lama would have to continue his unfinished work, "so logically in case I die outside (Tibet)," the new leader would have to be found "in outside free world."