Hundreds of workers at a Shenzhen watch factory owned by a Hong Kong company protested yesterday against a broken pledge made by the city's top official to offer them satisfactory compensation. Shenzhen Communist Party Secretary Liu Yupu visited the plant in Xixiang town on Sunday and directly told hundreds of workers that the government would give them a 'satisfactory reply' on both their back wages and other losses within a week. Mr Liu had won thunderous applause at the time, one of the witnesses said. However, an official with the municipal Labour Department told the labour representatives yesterday that the workers might get back only part of their severance pay and other compensation the factory owed them, and that the process would probably take a long time. 'What the labour official told us was fundamentally different from the promise given by the party secretary,' one of the workers complained. Hundreds of frustrated workers ran out of the factory and decided to march immediately to the local government headquarters, a source said. As the march began, around 60 police in riot gear, along with more than 100 other officers and security guards, arrived. The police sealed off the factory's only access road by lining up across it. Hoping to pacify the marchers, the deputy head of the town government, surnamed Ye, went to the factory and told them the liquidator representing their Hong Kong owner - the Peace Mark Group - had refused to deal with mainland authorities. The local labour department had then secured all the remaining assets before beginning an assessment of their value for an auction, Mr Ye was quoted by a worker as saying. Mr Ye called on them to wait until next Wednesday for another arbitration result. 'Someone said 'We have no choice',' one of the workers said. 'Apparently all we can do is just wait and wait. But most of us won't give up until we get back all we deserve.' Also, a senior sales official with Guangdong-based Midea Appliances, a manufacturer of home appliances that employs about 70,000 people on the mainland, warned that the company might lay off staff this year in the wake of the worldwide economic downturn.