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US executive still held by workers in China

Chip Starnes stood behind the bars of his office window while being held hostage at factory in Beijing on Monday.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Chip Starnes stood behind the bars of his office window while being held hostage at factory in Beijing on Monday.

BEIJING — Chinese workers keeping an American executive confined to his Beijing medical supply factory said Tuesday that they had not been paid in two months in a compensation dispute that highlights tensions in China’s labor market.

The executive, Chip Starnes of Specialty Medical Supplies, denied the workers’ allegations of two months of unpaid wages, as he endured a fifth day of captivity at the plant in the capital’s northeastern suburbs, peering out from behind the bars of his office window.

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About 100 workers are demanding back pay and severance packages identical to those offered 30 workers being laid off from the Coral Springs, Fla.-based company’s plastics division. The demands followed rumors that the entire plant was being closed, despite Starnes’s assertion that the company doesn’t plan to fire the others.

The dispute highlights general tensions in China’s labor market as bosses worry about rising wages and workers are on edge about the impact of slowing growth on the future of their jobs.

Inside one of the plant’s buildings, about 30 people, mostly women, hung around with their arms crossed. One worker, Gao Ping, told reporters inside an administrative office that she wanted to quit because she had not been paid for two months.

Starnes, 42, denied that they were owed unpaid salary.

‘‘They are demanding full severance pay, but they still have a job. That’s the problem,’’ he said.

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