Should you find yourself in this difficult position, the most important thing you should do is remain calm and not blow your top. If your employer merely wants to annoy you, the delay will be short.
If, however, you have an inkling this may take a torturous while, you ought to schedule a meeting with the school administrators ASAP. This is likely to piss off your employer even more, so please consider this your last resort should no amount of persuasion have any effect. When meeting them, you should have all the applicable laws printed out. The administrators will no doubt know the laws already but showing that you know them maybe the incentive they need to give your employer a right royal shove to get that letter out to you.
Should this fail, it may be time to file an official complaint with SAFEA, the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affair. As a foreign teacher, you are the expert and this government body is there to ensure your rights are protected.
Insider tip: More often than not, a mention of SAFEA during your meeting with the school administrators is enough to spur on some release-letter-action so don’t forget to drop in a line about filing an official complaint if it looks like your meeting won’t end well.
Getting your new employer involved in the negotiations isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’ve been offered a job with a reputable school and they’re keen to have you start as soon as possible. Your new school will have a vested interest in helping you secure your release letter (they’ll need it to sponsor your residency and have you work for them legally) so they may have good sway. It’s certainly worth a try.
Understanding the laws regarding teaching residency permits in China is vital to your understanding of the importance of a release letter. Having said that, note that these laws differ depending on where you are – SAFEA is still the best resource for the latest laws in regards to release letters.