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. Thousands of Hong Kong factories in China may close: report

by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Feb 18, 2008
Up to 14,000 Hong Kong-owned factories in southern China may close in the next few months, in part due to the crippling winter weather that hit the nation earlier in February, a report said Monday.

Labour and power shortages in the aftermath of the heavy snowstorms will hurt operations, Clement Chen, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI), told The Standard newspaper.

China's worst winter in 50 years paralysed transport networks, leaving hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from the north stranded in the Pearl River Delta ahead of the Lunar New Year.

Many of the workers returned home late for the country's biggest holiday, and Chen estimated more than 30 percent of them may still not have gotten back when factories re-opened on Monday.

About 70,000 factories employing 9.6 million people in the booming manufacturing delta area are run by Hong Kong businessmen -- 70 percent of the total number of factories there.

But Chen said some 14,000 Hong Kong-owned factories there will close this year, citing factors such as rising wages, increasing costs of raw materials and oil, a strengthening yuan and the economic slowdown in the United States.

"The snowstorms have merely worsened the situation," he told the newspaper.

Another factor: migrant workers may opt to stay in their villages since salaries were no longer as far behind those in southern Guangdong province, where many factories are located.

"According to our experience, only 70 out of every 100 workers will come back to work after the New Year holiday," Chen said.

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