China will execute an estimated 374 people during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, human rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday, citing an average calculation.
A new league table of executions put China at the top, having admitted using capital punishment 470 times last year, the London-based group said, while adding that campaigners believe the true figure is some 8,000.
"As the world's biggest executioner, China gets the 'gold medal' for global executions," said Amnesty's British director Kate Allen.
"According to reliable estimates, on average China secretly executes around 22 prisoners every day -- that's 374 people during the Olympic Games," she added.
Amnesty urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as well as Olympic athletes themselves to press for greater openness about executions by China, which will host the Olympics in Beijing from August 8-24.
Nearly 70 crimes can carry the death penalty in China including tax fraud, stealing VAT receipts, damaging electric power facilities, selling counterfeit medicine, embezzlement, accepting bribes and drug offences, said Amnesty.
"Everyone involved in this year's Olympics should be pressing China to reveal the extent of its use of the death penalty, to reduce the 60-plus crimes for which it can be imposed and to move toward abolition," said Allen.
Other countries highlighted in the league table of executions on Tuesday include Iran, where the number rose from 177 to 317 last year, and Saudi Arabia, where the total rose from 39 to at least 143.
In total, the figures showed there were 1,250 people executed worldwide last year, down from 1,591 in the previous 12 months, it noted.
But the group said China classifies the death penalty as a state secret.
"As the world and Olympic guests are left guessing, only the Chinese authorities know exactly how many people have been killed with state authorization.
"The secretive use of the death penalty must stop. The veil of secrecy surrounding the death penalty must be lifted. Many governments claim that executions take place with public support," it said.
"People therefore have a right to know what is being done in their name," the group added in a statement.
In a report earlier this month, Amnesty warned that China's human rights record was getting worse as Beijing bids to present a united front by cracking down on dissent.
Amnesty urged the IOC and the internaitional community to maintain pressure on Beijing, "lest the silent presence of world leaders with influence be used as a tacit endorsement of the human rights violations."
China's hopes of winning international prestige by sending the Olympic torch through 135 cities on five continents ahead of the Games have already been severely dented.
The early stages in London and Paris were overshadowed by demonstrations against Beijing's repression of protests in Tibet, and the San Francisco leg was also drastically curtailed and seen by relatively few people.