Chinese television has broadcast live footage showing four foreigners being led to their executions for murdering 13 Chinese sailors.

State broadcaster CCTV showed live pictures of a Myanmar drug smuggler and three members of his gang being led from their cells at a jail in southwestern Yunnan province's capital of Kunming on Friday afternoon.

State broadcaster showed the four being led in shackles and handcuffs from their cells at a jail in Kunming prior to their execution by lethal injection.

Their deaths were announced two hours later by the Yunnan provincial police department.

Accused ringleader Naw Kham and accomplices Hsang Kham, Yi Lai, and Zha Xiha were found guilty of the murder of 13 Chinese sailors in an October 5, 2011, attack on the Mekong River. 

The four are of Myanmar, Thai, Laotian, and unknown nationality. Two others were given a suspended death sentence and eight years in prison for involvement in the killings.

The publicity of the executions is a throwback to the mass public execution rallies of past years.

China has mostly abandoned the practice of parading condemned criminals before crowds.

China's Public Security Ministry made the case a top priority, forming a 200-officer special investigation group and working with Thai, Lao, and Myanmar authorities to gather evidence and track down the perpetrators.

Naw Kham was arrested in Laos last April and turned over to China the following month along with the other defendants.

Source: Agencies