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Hong Kong Brokers Boo Exchanges' Li to Protest Shorter Lunch

Kana Nishizawa and Fox Hu San Francisco Chronicle 01/13/2012 19:57
Hong Kong Brokers Boo Exchanges' Li to Protest Shorter Lunch - Hong Kong - employment - Business

Hong Kong securities traders and brokers, who last year lost the longest lunch break of the world's 20 biggest exchanges, marched to the city's bourse and booed at executives to protest a further reduction.

About 1,000 brokers and restaurant staff gathered at the headquarters of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. yesterday, booing Chief Executive Charles Li and Chairman Ronald Arculli when they came out of the office to receive a letter of protest for the plan to cut the lunch hour further from March 5.

Hong Kong Exchanges' Li is seeking to cut the lunch break to one hour from 90 minutes, arguing it may boost business as trading hours are brought in line with China's markets. Rivals in the region have also enacted similar measures with Tokyo shortening its midday halt and Singapore scrapping its break.

"We'll work together to find ways to solve the lunch problem," Li told reporters yesterday after meeting the protesters. "It's necessary to move on. We shouldn't stop our reform."

Li cut the break from two hours last year. Shanghai's trading hours run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a 90-minute stoppage between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Hong Kong will operate from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a one-hour break between noon and 1 p.m. after the proposed change.

The protesters, a mixture of gray-haired brokers and young women in suits and sweaters, marched from Statue Square in the central business district to the bourse's headquarters after the market closed. To chants of "Hong Kong Exchange is inhumane," the protesters waved picket signs and raised fists.