Over 160 human rights advocacy groups have delivered a joint letter to the chief of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) calling for it to reconsider its choice to award China the 2022 Winter Games in light of Beijing's human rights record.
It is the largest coordinated effort following several months of similar calls from individual rights groups, and comes as Beijing is facing increased international backlash over policies including its treatment of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang and new security laws in Hong Kong.
"The IOC must recognize that the Olympic spirit and the reputation of the Olympic Games will suffer further damage if the worsening human rights crisis, across all areas under China's control, is simply ignored," said the letter, which was released on Tuesday.
The letter argues that the prestige of the Beijing 2008 Olympics emboldened the government to take further actions, including programs targeting Xinjiang Uighurs and other ethnic policies.
China's Foreign Ministry denounced the move as an attempt to politicize sport.
"This is against the spirit of the Olympic charter and China firmly opposes it," ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
Among the letter's signatories are Uighur, Tibetan, Hong Kong and Mongolian rights groups based in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and Australia.
Last month, prominent Uighur rights group World Uighur Congress launched a similar appeal to the IOC over what it said were crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.
The IOC responded that would remain neutral on political issues and said it had received assurances from Chinese authorities that they would respect the principles of the Olympic charter.
The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
China has already made extensive preparations for the Games, which they say are on track to be held from Feb. 4-20, 2022.
There was similar outcry from rights groups ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At the time, the IOC defended the choice, saying the Games were a force for good.
Western diplomats in Geneva told Reuters they do not expect a resolution on China at the next session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, starting on Sept. 14.Some states are expected to refer to concerns on Hong Kong and Xinjiang in their speeches, they said.