The mass sentencing, which sparked outraged editorials in the Chinese media, came after the loggers were arrested in January during a crackdown on illegal forestry activities in northern Kachin state.

For years China hoovered up Myanmar’s once-abundant raw materials, spurring popular anger in the former junta-ruled country, which is set for a general election later this year.

Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang had asked its smaller neighbour to "deal with this case in a lawful, reasonable and justified manner … and return those people to China as soon as possible".

But the Myanmar government said it would not interfere in the judicial process.

"When our citizens break the law in other countries, [they] face sentence by those countries’ laws. We cannot use diplomacy to intervene. I think China will understand," government spokesman Ye Htut said.