U.S. boss held in China says deal made for release
BEIJING - A U.S. company boss held hostage by his Chinese workers for nearly a week says an agreement has been reached to pay them, and he expects to leave his Beijing plant later Thursday. Chip Starnes told The Associated Press early Thursday morning that a deal had been reached between him and the dozens of workers who had demanded generous severance packages even though they weren't being laid off. Some workers had said that when they saw equipment being packed up and itemized for shipping to India last week they feared the whole plant was moving. Some said they were owed unpaid salary. Starnes, a co-owner of Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, said he had been forced to give in to their demands. He summed up the past several days as "humiliating, embarrassing, saddened." During his time as hostage, he spoke with reporters through a barred window of the plant where he was being held."We have transferred our funds from the U.S.," he said Thursday by phone. "I am basically free to go when the funds hit the account here of the company." He declined to say how much. Starnes said he planned to get back to business and rehire some of the workers who had been holding him. "We're going to take Thursday off to let the dust settle, and we're going to be rehiring a lot of the previous workers on new contracts as of Friday," he said. The workers and their representatives could not immediately be reached.