The 10-day-long strike at the $5.59bn turnover, Yue Yuen Industrial, which manufactures shoes for Adidas, Nike and Converse, has revolved around issues such as outstanding social insurance, improper labour contracts and low wages.

Employees have demanded improved social insurance payments, a pay rise and more evenhanded contracts.

Thousands of workers, dressed in casual clothes but with factory lanyards and ID cards around their necks, hung around the industrial estate, refusing to return to work.

Riot police were stationed at the industrial estate in Dongguan.

Hong Kong-listed Yue Yuen produced over 300 million pairs of shoes in 2013 at factories located in China, Indonesia and Vietnam. It reported a net profit of $434.8 million last year from $7.58 billion in revenue.

 Wildcat strikes

The Yue Yuen unrest is the latest occurrence of industrial activism that has emerged just as growth in the world’s second-largest economy has slowed.

A worsening labour shortage in China has shifted the balance of power in labour relations. In addition, smartphones and the social media have helped factory workers coordinate plans and made them more aware than ever of the evolving environment, experts said.