The ordeal of a man locked up in a psychiatric hospital for four years for protesting about his salary and who was then spirited away after he escaped and sought help from journalists has sparked a national outcry. Xu Wu, a former security guard at the state-owned Wuhan Iron and Steel Group (Wugang), was chained up in the psychiatric ward of the Wugang No 2 Staff Hospital from 2007, after a campaign against his employer, which Xu claimed had paid staff with the same workload differently. On April 19, he escaped from the hospital by bending the iron rails on the window in his room with his bed sheet. But he didn't go home, and instead sought out media outlets in Guangzhou to reveal his plight. Then on Wednesday last week, he was abducted in Guangzhou by seven men with an accent from Wuhan, Hubei , where Xu is from. One of them was allegedly the security department head from Wugang, caing.com reported. His parents tried to get him back but were told by a senior official of Wugang that the company was considering releasing him on the condition that Xu promised to drop his campaign. Xu's father, Xu Guibin, told The Southern Metropolis News he wasn't confident that his son would stop campaigning against the company if he was freed. Then on Tuesday, Xu's parents were taken away by unidentified people. Mainland journalists said their whereabouts were unknown. A statement by Wugang posted on xinhuanet.com on Saturday accused Xu of setting off an explosion in Beijing in December 2006 and being arrested by Beijing police. It also said that Xu's parents had planned to send him to the psychiatric clinic to be locked up. Before they disappeared, the parents told mainland reporters that Xu Wu had been forced into confessing to the explosion. They showed a diagnosis certificate from the Wuhan Mental Health Centre issued on December 26, 2006, and claimed it was forged because at that time Xu Wu was in Beijing. Another medical conclusion said Xu Wu had developed paranoid psychosis. Neither Wugang nor local police from Gangcheng, where Wugang is located, could be reached for comment yesterday. A dozen reporters arrived in Wuhan to follow the case, but the propaganda department issued an order that reports on the case were not allowed, reporters confirmed. The controversy deepened after a reporter from the New Express, Yu Yalian, wrote in her microblog that she had been snubbed by a Wugang spokesman, who complained that her inquiry had disrupted his hot-spring bath with his wife. He told her to use Xinhua reports. The alleged audio clip of the conversation is widely circulated online. Intriguingly, the People's Daily, a Communist Party's official mouthpiece, published a commentary yesterday on the case, saying the authorities should abide by the law when they send someone to a psychiatric hospital. 'People are concerned about the Xu Wu incident, because they care about the personal freedom of a citizen, and also because this case is so much like many previous cases - that someone was forcibly locked up for several years, that petitioning was involved, and that the families of the victims did not think they had suffered from mental illnesses.'