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Chinese Workers Hold US Executive in Pay Dispute

American Chip Starnes, co-owner of Specialty Medical Supplies, looks out from a window after he was hostage by workers inside his plant near Beijing, June 24, 2013.
An American executive says he is being held hostage by employees at his factory in suburban Beijing because of a dispute over wages.

Chip Starnes, cofounder of the Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, says workers have prevented him from leaving the facility since Friday.

About 100 employees have barricaded every exit of the facility, demanding back pay and severance packages like those given to 30 recently laid-off employees.

Starnes says the lay-offs led the workers to mistakenly believe their jobs are also in jeopardy. He says it is unreasonable for him to give full severance pay when the workers still have jobs. He also denied the workers were owed unpaid salary.

Speaking from inside the gated facility, Starnes told reporters Tuesday he is unharmed, but tired, since the workers have kept him from sleeping by shining bright lights and banging on the windows of his office.

Several security officers could be seen outside the factory, but did not comment on the situation.

Labor disputes are not uncommon between Chinese employers and workers, who are often left unprotected when factories are shut down.