WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 1949 (UP) -- The State department said Tuesday it has received Communist reports that American Consul General Angus Ward is being tried by a Chinese "people's court" at Mukden and that a verdict will be announced soon.
Ward and four members of his staff were jailed Oct.24 on what this country regards as "trumped up" charges of beating two Chinese workers who had demanded back pay. The rest of his staff is under house arrest and has not been allowed to contact him directly.
The State department, which is trying to mobilize world opinion behind a campaign to free the five men, said it had received the first word that their trials actually are under way from Communist newspapers in Shanghai and Nanking.
A Communist report published in Nanking and attributed to a Mukden broadcast, said the "people's court" had held "many hearings" on the case. Two Chinese witnesses and the alleged assault victims already have testified, it said.
"As the investigation has been concluded," it said, "the court will give a final hearing to the case in matter of days and the verdict will be announced."
Another account published in a Shanghai Communist newspaper said there were two "victims" of what it termed the "American imperialist element." Until Tuesday it had been understood that Ward and his employees were charged with beating only one person.
Still another report from Nanking said Ward and his aides had been brought face-to-face with their alleged "victims" and that both sides had made "statements." It, too, forecast an early verdict.
The trial report was no surprise to some American officials. They have felt all along that the Communists would convict the accused, submit them to indignities, and order them from China "in disgrace."
This procedure would be designed to make all westerners "lose face" in the Far East, where prestige is highly valued.
There had been suggestions from the American Legion and some congressmen that the United States use the threat of military force to obtain Ward's freedom. But that course was discarded as too dangerous. One top official put it this way:
"Use force, and all you will get is Ward's corpse."
Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson opened the campaign to mobilize world opinion against the Chinese Communists Friday when he urged Russia and 29 other nations to join in a mass protest over the Ward incident.
As soon as the action was revealed yesterday, the Voice of America began a round-the -clock global publicity drive to acquaint other nations with the facts in the case.
The program seemed to be bearing fruit.
British and Canadian sources said it now is highly unlikely that recognition of the Chinese Red regime by the British Empire nations-once believed imminent-could come until Ward was released.
France was understood to be giving "favorable" consideration to Acheson's request. India is considering the matter.
Standing trial with Ward are Ralph Rehberg, Rochester, N.Y.; Shiro Tatsumi, Seattle, and two Europeans who were hired in China.