New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Wednesday that he would not meet the Dalai Lama when he visits the country next month.
"The reason simply is I've decided that I wouldn't get a lot out of that particular meeting," he told reporters. "I don't see every religious leader that comes to town. I've seen him in the past, I may see him in the future."
Key, who said before he was elected a year ago that he would meet the Dalai Lama on future visits, denied that China had pressured him to boycott the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
He said the issue was not raised by China's President Hu Jintao during a regional summit in Singapore at the weekend, and no other Chinese government agency had asked him not to meet the Dalai Lama.
But a spokesman for the trust organising the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's programme, said there could only be one reason for Key's decision, "and that reason is China's political and economic influence in New Zealand either directly or indirectly".
Neil Cameron, of the Dalai Lama Visit Trust New Zealand, said in a statement: "The issue of human rights abuses in Tibet by China no longer concerns New Zealand governments."
Cameron called Key's decision disappointing but not surprising. "We have entered a period of time when China wields significant influence over the economies and internal policies of many nations around the world and New Zealand is no exception.
"The prime minister may or may not have been pressured by Chinese officials or agencies over the visit but direct and vocal pressure would have been applied if the invitation had been accepted."
When the Dalai Lama was last in New Zealand in 2007, Key was leader of the opposition and "dropped in" on a meeting between his National Party foreign affairs spokesman Murray McCully and the Tibetan.
Cameron said Chinese newspapers in Auckland had refused to run paid editorial or advertisements promoting the visit, "so this pressure is applied in a number of spheres even before His Holiness arrives, it's the reality of China's political presence in New Zealand".
He said Phil Goff, leader of the opposition Labour Party, had accepted an invitation to meet the Dalai Lama, who is scheduled to speak in Auckland on December 6, during his visit.