The Chinese government has executed 20 people, including a man convicted of destroying an Air Force jeep during last June's pro-democracy uprising, Chinese newspapers reported.

Sunday's edition of the official Sichuan Daily, seen in Beijing Thursday, said courts in the capital of Sichuan province last week sentenced nine people to die, including convicted arsonist Yu Yongchuan. All were immediately executed.The newspaper said Yu led others in overturning a jeep and setting it on fire during rioting that broke out in the capital, Chengdu, on June 5, the day after the bloody military suppression of the pro-democracy move-ment in Beijing.

The official press has reported the executions of at least 20 participants in anti-government disturbances last June, although the number of actual executions is believed to be substantially higher.

Yu is the first reported case since a Beijing court last December sentenced two men to die for killing a policeman on June 4.

Meanwhile, three former hunger strikers who have been the government's only open critics since the movement for democracy was crushed last year dropped out of sight Thursday, and their planned news conference was canceled.

It was not clear if the three young intellectuals were voluntarily lying low or were taken into custody as a preventative move before Sunday's anniversary of last year's army attack on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

The three had planned to issue an open letter to Chinese leaders calling for the release of political prisoners.

The government also announced Thursday that it will send an assistant foreign minister to Hanoi next month for the highest-level official visit to Vietnam since the two countries fought a brief war in 1979.

Xu Dunxin will travel to Bangkok in early June for consultations with Thai leaders on the Cambodia war and then go on to Hanoi, said ministry spokeswoman Li Jinhua.