The 26 were mostly convicted of “drug trafficking and other heinous crimes” and were sentenced on Saturday, the China News Service said on Sunday.
 
The sentences were delivered under heavy security at the Guangzhou municipal court with some 150 armed police and security guards maintaining order, the report said.

China's state prosecutor's office began clearing away back logged cases on 1 August, the report said.

The favoured method of execution in China is a bullet in the back of the head.

15,000 executed annually

China liberally uses the death penalty in its court rulings but regards the number of executions as a closely-guarded state secret.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says China executes more people than the rest of the world does combined.

According to a book titled Disidai, purportedly written by a high-placed government source and published recently in the United States, China has executed up to 15,000 people a year during its four-year-old "strike hard" campaign against crime.

Last month, the government announced that the campaign would continue for at least another year.