Hong Kong appliance maker BEP International's Shenzhen production lines were sealed for auction by officials yesterday, a day after 1,500 workers rallied on the streets for back pay and compensation. Authorities allowed factory canteens and dormitories to remain open for the workers, and more than 1,200 frustrated former employees remained inside the factory grounds yesterday in the hope of recovering at least some wages. BEP announced on Friday night that the plant was shutting down after racking up huge losses as a result of declining exports. Workers' representatives said it owed more than 50 million yuan (HK$56.8 million) to employees and suppliers. Court officials said it could take months to assess and auction off the company's assets. Just a few kilometres away, several hundred unpaid workers demonstrated in front of another liquidated Hong Kong-listed company, watch manufacturer Peace Mark. More than 500 workers staged a sit-in to demand back-pay yesterday. Workers said the factory manager and senior staff had fled and almost all of the valuable raw materials had been shipped out. Shenzhen authorities have been under pressure to resolve back-pay disputes. On Sunday, thousands of workers marched to a demonstration in front of government offices in Xixiang, appealing to labour arbitration agencies to pressure factory bosses to pay their wages and severance pay. They threatened more rallies if their demands remained unmet. Officials said yesterday they were unable to contact managers from BEP International, who had originally agreed to meet representatives of its workers in Shenzhen. Officials also said the value of the seized property was well below the company's 50 million yuan in outstanding debt and it was unlikely workers would receive all their back pay. The company owed about 20 million yuan in wages, overtime and severance payments to its 1,500 Shenzhen workers. Workers were critical of the Shenzhen government for not following Dongguan's example of using government funds to cover 24 million yuan in unpaid wages for 6,500 workers thrown out of work after Hong Kong toymaker Smart Union Group (Holdings) decided to close two factories in Zhangmutou township. Former BEP worker Wang Dee , from Hubei province , said she could not consider offers of employment in other districts or return home because she lacked the money for transport. At least four Hong Kong-listed companies have closed their factories in the once-booming manufacturing hub of Guangdong during the past week, affecting more than 8,600 workers. Mainland economists said factories were feeling the squeeze from tight curbs on loans, rising labour costs and a weak global economy, and more were likely to shut down within two years. The Dongguan Toy Association forecast that at least half of the 3,800 toymakers in Dongguan were likely to go bankrupt before 2010, the Nanfang Daily reported yesterday.