How to get what you want from the boss? Hold him hostage in his office: that's what Chinese factory workers did to US executive Chip Starnes

Beijing factory owner imprisoned for five  days as angry workers barricade the exits

Beijing

Chip Starnes has had quite a day at the office. In fact, the 42-year-old US executive hasn’t been able to leave his medical supply plant in Beijing for five days because he has been held hostage by dozens of workers demanding redundancy packages like those given to 30 co-workers in a shuttered section of the plant.

Mr Starnes, who is  co-proprietor of the Florida-based company  Specialty Medical Supplies, said local government officials had come to the factory on the outskirts of Beijing on Saturday and coerced him into signing an agreement to meet workers’ demands.

All this despite the fact that the 100 workers left at the plant were not about to be laid off. The workers are expecting their payoffs to arrive by wire transfers today. Around 80 employees have blocked off the plant’s exits and deprived the barricaded Mr Starnes of sleep by shining bright lights through the windows of his office and banging on the glass to keep him awake.  “I feel like a trapped animal,” Mr Starnes told The Associated Press from his first-floor window. “I think it’s inhumane what is going on. I have been in this area for 10 years and created a lot of jobs. I would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would happen.”

Given the coercive deal was brokered by the local government Mr Starnes is not expecting help from the police, although they are at the site to “maintain order”. Workers inside the factory compound in the Huairou district in Beijing’s north-eastern suburbs declined to speak to the press.

Representatives from the US Embassy joined police outside the gate yesterday and were eventually let in. Embassy spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said the two sides were on the verge of an agreement and that Mr Starnes would have access to his attorneys.

His plight is indicative of broader changes currently taking place in China. Rising inflation and production costs mean the years of China being the factory of the world appear numbered, certainly at the lower end of the manufacturing scale. Goldman Sachs on Monday became the latest investment bank to downgrade its forecast for Chinese economic growth this year, and any overseas companies are looking elsewhere for cheap labour in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam. There is considerable fear among China’s workers that overseas manufacturers may choose to move.

Specialty Medical Supplies has been winding down its plastics division in Beijing in readiness to move it to Mumbai, India. Mr Starnes arrived in China last Tuesday to lay off the last 30 people, some of whom had been working at the site for up to nine years so their compensation packages were “pretty nice,” he said.

The demands for redundancy pay-offs began on Friday. Trapping the boss in the building until money is paid up is not unusual in China, though these days it is rare to hear of foreign managers being treated in this way .

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions