U.S. exec freed after being held captive by Chinese employees

June 27, 2013 at 2:46 PM
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BEIJING, June 27 (UPI) -- Workers at a medical supply factory outside of Beijing Thursday released a U.S. executive they had been holding captive for six days, officials said.

Chip Starnes, co-owner of Specialty Medical Supplies, based in Florida, was released after reaching an agreement with his workers, who were demanding severance pay, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Details of the settlement -- reached by Starnes, lawyers, representatives of the local labor union and government officials at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday -- were not disclosed, but Starnes said he ended up giving money to employees who had already received severance packages.

"Money has been wired and I expect to be out having cocktails by this evening," Starnes, 42, said Thursday before his release.

Starnes arrived at his factory Friday to finalize severance payments for 30 of his employees who were being laid off because their jobs making plastic injection moldings were being moved to Mumbai, where production costs are lower, USA Today reported.

The factory's 100 other employees, fearing the rest of the company may close down as well, barricaded Starnes in his office and demanded similar severance package.

"Everything has been properly resolved," said Chu Lixiang, a local trade union official. "I just want to tell foreign investors that Huairou has a very good investment environment and fully fledged laws, they don't have to be scared."

Starnes said he plans to keep his business in China and wants to sign new contracts with some of the employees who held him captive, ABC News reported.

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