My Time as a Hostage, and I’m a Business Reporter – David Barboza

David Barboza, the Shanghai-based business reporter for the New York Times, tells about his adventure as he tried to report on the factory that makes Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Barboza, his translator and a photographer were held inside the factory for nine hours while the local police were powerless to intervene:

“You’ve intruded on our property,” one factory boss shouted at me. “Tell me, what exactly is the purpose of this visit?” When I answered that I had come to meet the maker of a toy that had recently been recalled in the United States because it contained lead paint, he suggested I was really a commercial spy intent on stealing the secrets to the factory’s toy process.

“How do I know you’re really from The New York Times?” he said. “Anyone can fake a name card.”

…The scene was farcical. We were locked inside the factory gate, surrounded by 16 security guards and 4 or 5 factory bosses. All trucks trying to bring supplies in or out of the complex were rerouted. Inside, large crowds of factory workers in blue uniforms were gawking. A crowd had also gathered outside the gates.

The police arrived an hour later, listened to both sides and then stood around. More police officers came. And more police officers stood around. It was clear they had no power to intervene. [Full text]

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