Beijing executed 16 murderers, rapists and violent robbers this week, and an official newspaper defended their deaths as the only way to stop a rising tide of serious crime in the Chinese capital.

The 16 included a child killer, a child molester, three gang-rapists, a gang who attacked and crippled a Beijing taxi driver and a youth who killed a soldier by pushing her under the wheels of a subway train.The men, most in their 20s, were sentenced before an audience of several hundred at the city's Intermediate People's Court and executed immediately after, reports said. Several were convicted of crimes committed up to two years ago.

Execution in China is usually carried out by a pistol shot to the back of the head.

Beijing newspapers published only partial accounts of the mass sentencing, and court officials declined to say how many people had been sentenced.