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US factory boss held hostage in China by workers demanding severance packages

An American executive says he's been held hostage for four days at his medical supply plant in Beijing by scores of workers demanding severance packages like those given to 30 co-workers in a phased-out department.

Chip Starnes, 42, a co-owner of Coral Springs, Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, says local officials visited the plant in Huairou district and coerced him into signing agreements Saturday to meet the demands even though the remaining 100 workers weren't being laid off. He says the workers are expecting wire transfers by Tuesday, though he declined to say the amount.

Spokesman Zhao Lu of the Huairou Public Security Bureau says police are at the scene guaranteeing the manager's safety and that a pay dispute is being resolved.

Local government officials could not be reached for comment.