Naw Kham, a Myanmar drug gang leader, and three of his accomplices faced lethal injection with a mixture of defiance and fear in the broadcast on CCTV which showed them being taken from prison to the execution cite.
The four, along with two other accused, admitted intentional homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and hijacking at their trial last year, state news agency Xinhua said, over a raid on two Chinese riverboats in October 2011.
Xinhua described Naw Kham as "the boss of the largest armed drug trafficking gang" on the river which flows through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, adding that he was nicknamed "the Godfather".
The incident sparked outrage in China, where photographs of the gagged and blindfolded victims circulated online, and the progress of the case has been given prominent coverage in state media.
In the broadcast Naw Kham, 43, smiled slightly before grimacing as a restraining rope was tied around him in the prison in Kunming, in the southern province of Yunnan.
He then emerged into bright sunlight and a bank of television cameras, before being put into a van and driven away.
His fellow inmates, named by state media as Hsang Kham, 61 from Thailand, Yi Lai, 55, stateless, and Zha Xika, 28, from Laos, followed. The two older men looked grim-faced, while the younger convict's features crumpled.
CCTV cut to interviews with police officials outside the prison before returning to a studio discussion on the case. "He's eaten well, he's slept well, he's looking better than when he was arrested," said one of the panel.
Before the conclusion of the programme, which ran for almost two hours, a statement on the Yunnan provincial security bureau's website said all four had been executed.
Interviewed by CCTV earlier this week, Naw Kham said: "I miss my mother. Good people will turn bad in the Golden Triangle, you can't resist the temptation.
"I hope my children will not follow my example. I wish them a good future and hope they will study hard."
Shown a picture of the families of the dead, he said: "I have sent money to the relatives of the victims. Their pains are just like mine, I have children, I want to be with them when I get old.
"I want to live, I don't want to die."
Recent reports in Chinese state media said that officials considered killing him with a drone strike in Myanmar during the hunt but instead decided to capture him alive. In the event he was arrested in Laos and flown to China.