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TODAY   |  June 25, 2013

American CEO held captive in China by factory workers

Chip Starnes, the American CEO of Specialty Medical Supplies, has been held captive at his factory since last Friday by workers who have been with him for nearly a decade. NBC’s Eunice Yoon reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> china.

>> no, absolutely not.

>> he's the center of a worker revolt. not uncommon for china but rare for an american boss. he decided to move part of the business to india. he layed off 35 workers and paid them severance. rumors started he was closing the factory. they wouldn't let him out but they would let us in.

>> i thought i would have more support on the outside.

>> reporter: so the workers are saying he isn't being detained here. they say he is free to walk around the grounds but that that's very different from being held hostage. not to starns.

>> first couple of days were very tough. nothing physical, more mental type of stuff going on. anywhere you walk, 14, 16, 18 people following you.

>> his lawyers are negotiating. no deal.

>> i want to take a shower and shave. i'm only 42 but i'm looking a lot older than i am.

>> reporter: held up in his chinese factory. and the american chamber of commerce said this type of hostage taking does happen from time to time but it is rare and not a major problem for the international business community.

>> before i let you go. we're shaky on something. what were happen if that guy were to simply get out of that building and walk down the sidewalk and leave the grounds of the plant and perhaps even get on a plane out of there?

>> reporter: that's not going to happen. this is a compound that is very well guarded. he was saying that one of the big main problems is at every single exit there were people. he has scores of workers who are blocking the gate. he wouldn't be able to crawl over the gates at all. even though he definitely wants to.

>> what about local law enforcement or the embassy there? why won't they just let this guy get out?

>> well, he did actually try to get in touch with the u.s. embassy officials. they have been generally trying to help him but what he was saying was he was mainly disappointed in the local government . the local government didn't help him out and one of the things he was complaining about the most is he felt he wasn't able to get messages out. his internet is now blocked and the only way he is able to communicate with anybody in the outside world is through phone calls or just shouting out his window as he did to us.

>> we'll follow up on this story. eunice, thank you.

>> i have to say, that's one of the weirder ones we have seen and even eunice seemed like he was being jostled a little bit by some of the workers.