Traders in Hong Kong marched to the stock exchange in protest against government plans to cut their lunch break from 90 minutes to just one hour.

The plans, due to be introduced in March, will see the second reduction of lunch breaks in a year. Traders used to be able to take two hours for lunch.

The stockbrokers carried signs reading: "You want us to trade until we drop. We want you to drop before we trade."

Four hundred traders marched through the financial district to deliver a letter of protest to Ronald Arculli, the chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing. The Hong Kong government is the largest single shareholder in the exchange.

Arculli said: "Obviously, with the economic situation being what it is, we never introduced this reform on trading hours with a view to increasing trading volume. But if we did not introduce this, I fear we would lose some competitive edge."

Hong Kong has been fighting an intensifying battle over the last few years to stop Shanghai on the Chinese mainland poaching business. Shanghai stockbrokers work from 9am until 5pm with no breaks at all.