Thousands of workers who lost their jobs with the factory closures this week by Hong Kong toymaker Smart Union Group (Holdings) continued to protest over unpaid wages in Zhangmutou in Guangdong province yesterday. The workers urged the township government in Dongguan to immediately cover more than 24 million yuan (HK$27.3 million) in wages they are owed. About 2,000 protesters sat or stood quietly outside the government building from 9am to noon, facing hundreds of security guards and riot police in helmets, shields and batons, while another 1,000 workers kept watch outside Smart Union's Zhangyang operation. The demonstrators said police appeared very nervous about the gatherings and, as a warning to protesters not to be too rash, officers detained at least one worker early in the morning before releasing him at about noon. At about 11am, security guards tried to turn away Hong Kong reporters interviewing workers, but the move provoked shouts from them of 'do not beat the reporters'. 'A security guard beat me with a stick when I tried to stop them turning away reporters,' a worker said, showing a bruise on his arm. Zhangmutou had pledged on Thursday that it would cover the workers' unpaid wages but many were losing patience. Henan migrant worker Wu Lijuan, 26, said that by yesterday morning she still had not received any money. 'They said we could get the money on Thursday,' she said, adding that she was already six days behind in her rent. 'I had to borrow some money from my colleagues for food,' Ms Wu said. 'All I have is 15 yuan.' Zhangmutou township director Luo Weilun said all the back pay was ready and officials were preparing the accounting and transfer details. He said the first several million yuan would be in workers' accounts by yesterday afternoon or this morning. Some workers said they had received one month's back pay by late yesterday afternoon. Hong Kong-listed Smart Union owned two toy factories in Dongguan and one in Qingyuan , but closed them suddenly this week. Workers said the company's management 'fled back' to Hong Kong. Senior personnel from the firm have been unavailable for comment. Mr Luo accused Smart Union of having no sense of its responsibilities. 'They [Smart Union] did not wait for a moment before getting off their asses [and fleeing]. We would like to pursue legal action against them.' In Hong Kong, Smart Union said it was seeking to wind up the company and had appointed provisional liquidators. In a statement issued yesterday, the Hong Kong-listed company said it presented a petition to the High Count on Thursday about the voluntary wind-up. Hong Kong's Cable TV quoted John Lees, one of the provisional liquidators, as saying that a few investors had expressed interest in buying the company. Peter Chai Kwong-wah, who runs a toy factory in Guangdong, said it would be hard for the delta's export-oriented factories to take on the unemployed Smart Union workers. 'We all are hit by falling demand, soaring costs and now the global crisis,' he said. 'We have no plans to hire workers.' Meanwhile, two writs have been issued against Smart Union Industrial Limited for claims totalling more than HK$3.5million. Sammi Manufacturing Company is demanding the company pay for orders between January and August this year, which are worth more than HK$2.34million, while New Continental International Limited, who supplied the company polyester fabric, is claiming about HK$1.2 million.