Hundreds of sacked workers continue their demonstrations outside the Nanjing Down Products Plant, the South China Morning Post reported. Groups have been gathering outside the former state-run factory since October, when they were told that it was to be sold off and they were to lose their jobs.

The plant, which made down garments and raw materials for the domestic and export markets, has been sold to another state enterprise for around 40m yuan ($48.4m), leaving an estimated 8m yuan ($967,726) in debts. One thousand employees are now out of work and have been given no indication as to whether they will receive financial compensation.

The official situation of the plant is unclear too. A representative of the Nanjing Municipal Economic and Trade Commission confirmed the plant had been sold. He said the factory was in difficulty, but had not been formally declared bankrupt. He did not identify the buyer or confirm the price of the sale. Officials declined to say what would happen to the plant's employees.

Time is running out for protesters, who have been receiving partial payments since the lay-offs in October, but they say the plant's former manager, Song Jingyun, refuses to talk to them. "I've been getting 230 yuan ($28) a month but that will end next year," said one of the workers. "Work for a lifetime and this is what you get," another angry worker said.

Posters on the factory's walls accuse management of stripping state assets for personal gain - a problem that is increasing as China's ailing state industry continues to endure a difficult restructuring process. A specialist in corporate restructuring said that companies are cautiously testing bankruptcy law. He added that cases are likely to rise: "I expect you'll see the pace pick up over the next two years," he said.

Similar complaints have been reported in other provinces. Managers of bankrupt state-run factories have been accused of colluding with buyers in selling the firm's assets cheaply. Sale of state assets normally requires independent evaluation by professional accountants. But it has been a common problem that managers of state firms manipulate the evaluation for their personal gain.