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Chinese workers release U.S. boss held captive over wage dispute

June 27, 2013|By Shan Li
  • U.S. businessman Chip Starnes, right, who has been held hostage at his Chinese business for six days over a wage dispute, was released by his workers Thursday.
U.S. businessman Chip Starnes, right, who has been held hostage at his Chinese… (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty…)

An American businessman held hostage by his Chinese workers over a wage dispute was released Thursday after both sides reached an agreement on compensation.

Chip Starnes, an owner of Specialty Medical Supplies based in Coral Springs, Fla., was held captive for almost a week inside the company's plant in the Huairou district of northern Beijing.

About 80 workers who held him inside the factory believed the entire plant was shutting down and demanded the company pay them what they said was unpaid back wages, the Associated Press reported. Other media reports said the employees were demanding severance packages.

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Starnes told the AP he was deprived of sleep by employees who made loud noises and shined a bright light. He was able to speak to media through a barred window in his office during his captivity.

Such disputes are not unheard of in China, where rapid economic change has led to increased conflicts between workers and management. That has especially been the case with rising concerns that China's economic engine is slowing down. Local officials and police are often loathe to intercede lest they spur even more unrest.

In Starnes' case, police guarded the factory while a labor official was brought in to facilitate negotiations, the AP reported. Starnes, who previously said his employees' demands were unjustified, did not give details about the agreement that was reached to allow him to go free.

The company had not had plans to shutter the entire factory, Starnes told the AP. Workers got worried, he said, when the firm closed down its plastics division to move to India and laid off 30 people as a result.

Starnes said all workers were fired following his release, but some would be rehired at a later date.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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