Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Workers taking bosses hostage in China

The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Report has an article entitled, "Why Chinese Workers Sometimes Hold Foreign Execs Hostage." The report begins:

Beset by stories of runaway bosses, Chinese workers are adopting increasingly drastic methods in negotiating with their employers – including caging them in their own offices.

 As The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, an American medical supplies executive in Beijing has been trapped inside his office since Friday — held hostage, he says, by about 80 employees who believe he is shutting down the factory and who are demanding he pay them severance.

It's important to remember a few things, among them that it is the company, not its executives, that is liable for unpaid wages. The workers are not caging their employers; they are caging senior employees of the employer. As to why they are doing it, the answer is simple: it apparently works. Certainly there seems to be little downside: according to the article, the trapped executive "said local police were bringing him three hot meals a day to him, but had declined to free him from his captivity." In other words, there is an ongoing crime of unlawful detention, possibly kidnapping, going on right in front of their noses, but the police are simply standing by with arms folded. It is hard to imagine a similarly casual attitude were local Party officials to be trapped by a group of Falungong adherents.

It's a little absurd that this kind of official toleration of self-help remedies that violate the criminal law should be going on in the year 2013, in the world's second-largest economy, on the territory of a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Bananas, anyone?

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