Tokyo: 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 recognise 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 programmes targeting Xinjiang Uighurs and other ethnic policies.
China's Foreign Ministry denounced the move as an attempt to politicise sport.
“This is against the spirit of the Olympic charter and China firmly opposes it,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told.
Among the letter's signatories are Uighur, Tibetan, Hong Kong and Mongolian rights groups based in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and Australia.
In a response to a query on the letter, the IOC said that they remain neutral on global political issues, and that awarding the Olympic Games to a national committee “does not mean that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards in its country.”