China appears to have ruled out talks with the Tibetan government-in-exile’s new prime minister, Lobsang Sangay.
A top Chinese official dealing with Tibetan contacts said Beijing would only meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama.
In an interview with state media, Zhu Weiqun said the exile government was an illegal group with no recognition.
Mr Sangay was elected by Tibetan exiles around the world last month to take on the Dalai Lama’s political role.
The Dalai Lama said in March that he wanted to devolve this responsibility to an elected official, saying that such a move was in the best interests of the Tibetan people.
The Dalai Lama will retain his role as Tibetan spiritual leader.
Analysts say he aims to ensure that even if China’s government tries to select the next Dalai Lama, the Tibetans will have an elected leader they can look to who is outside China and beyond the Communist Party’s control.
In recent years, the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department has held unsuccessful on-off talks with the Dalai Lama’s envoys.
And Vice-Minister Zhu’s comments show little hope of improved relations between Beijing and the new exiled leadership in India.
In an interview with the official “Chinese Tibet” magazine, Mr Zhu described the government-in-exile as “a splittist political clique that has betrayed the motherland”.
He said there was “nothing legal about them” and that they had “no status to ‘talk’ with the central government’s representatives”.
Mr Sangay, a Harvard University academic, said in a recent interview that he was ready to negotiate with China “anytime, anywhere”.
He says his government will seek genuine autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule by following the “middle path” advocated by the Dalai Lama.
Analysts say Mr Sangay faces a tough challenge as the elected head of a government which no country recognises and with China as an opponent which has shown no sign of wanting to compromise.