An American businessman said on Monday that workers at his medical supply facility on the outskirts of Beijing have locked him up, demanding severance packages, although he maintains that none of them were being laid off, Associated Press reported.
Chip Starnes, 42, a co-owner of Coral Springs, a specialty medical supplies company based in Florida, told AP, from the window of his first-floor office, where he has been held hostage for four days, that Chinese officials forced him to sign documents on Saturday to meet the demands of the workers, who expect severance packages like those given to 30 others in another division of the company, which is being downsized.
Starnes told AP the company planned to move its plastics division from Beijing to Mumbai, India, and he arrived in China last Tuesday to lay off the remaining 30 people in the division. He said their severance packages were “pretty nice,” since they had been employed there for almost nine years.
Starnes said that 100 workers were holding him hostage and demanding that the money be wired by Tuesday, despite the fact that none of them were losing their jobs. He said the workers were standing guard at all times of the day, and were disturbing his sleep with bright lights and loud noises.
“I feel like a trapped animal,” Starnes told AP. “I think it's inhumane what is going on right now. I have been in this area for 10 years and created a lot of jobs and I would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would happen.”
U.S. embassy officials were outside his plant at the Jinyurui Science and Technology Park in Qiao Zi township of Huairou District, on the outskirts of Beijing, but they declined to comment on the situation, AP said. A few policemen have been deployed to maintain law and order, the report said.
According to AP, there have been instances in the past, in China, of workers holding employers captive, to demand better wages and benefits, but instances involving foreigners have been very rare.