The Hong Kong Toys Council promised yesterday to begin monitoring mainland factories run by their members to improve working conditions. Council secretary-general Kwok Chung-wee said the 200-member group would find an independent auditor this year to begin inspecting and certifying factories. But he said the trade association had no power to force its members to open factories to visits. Mr Kwok was responding to accusations by the Christian Industrial Committee that employees in factories making toys for overseas and Hong Kong companies were overworked and underpaid. The committee yesterday protested against alleged abuse outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the international Toy & Games Fair is being held. The committee talked to 150 workers in 12 factories last year, and said it found 'widespread violations' of China's labour laws. Workers were forced to work overtime without pay and were paid less than the minimum wage determined by Chinese municipal governments. 'They also had to sign three-year contracts,' the committee's executive secretary, Shek Ping-kwan, said. 'A woman who tried to escape by climbing over a wall in July was beaten by security guards.' China's labour laws state that employees should not have to do more than 40 hours per week of regular work and 36 hours per month of overtime. The minimum wage varies from city to city. In some factories, the dormitory was located in the same building as the warehouse, creating a serious fire hazard, Mr Shek said. In four of the factories, workers had fainted from exhaustion. In another four factories, workers had suffered skin irritation after coming into contact with dangerous chemicals, according to the committee. But Mr Kwok said most factories complied with the law. 'I believe these cases of violations are unusual cases,' he said. But Mr Shek said abuses would likely continue until a truly independent inspection system was adopted. 'We've asked the council to let us participate in the auditing team, but they have refused,' he said.