WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 1949 (UP) -- Chinese Communists have liberated United States Consul General Angus Ward and four aides and ordered them to leave the country at once, the State Department disclosed Wednesday.
The five were freed Tuesday after being held incommunicado since their arrest Oct.24 in Mukden, Manchuria, on charges of beating a Chinese consulate employee. All apparently were unharmed.
The Mukden Communist thus closed the case which had aroused national indignation and international concern. The deportation order was the final phase of the case after the consul general and aides had faced trial.
Ward in his first direct report to American authorities since he was jailed, revealed that he and his aides were found guilty by a Communist "people's court," and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to six months.
But the Red regime, apparently in the face of rising United States resentment and strong diplomatic pressure from other nations, commuted the sentences to deportation.
The Communists gave way after the United States government started one of the strongest diplomatic drives in recent years. Besides the usual diplomatic pressure from the White House and State department, the American Legion, Congressmen and important elements of the American press put the heat on the Chinese Reds.
The State department instructed Ward and his entire staff of 11 to leave Mukden "forthwith." This will close the consulate which has been a "hot sport" of the orient since the Communists overran north China. Consulates in Chungking and Kunming were ordered closed last week but the State department said today it will continue such operations at Nanking, Shanghai, Peiping and Tientsin.
Members of the Mukden consulate, including Mrs. Ward and five other dependents, have been under house arrest for nearly a year. The Reds refused repeated American requests that they be allowed to depart.
Officials here are now confident they will be permitted to leave.
The aides released with Ward were Ralph Rehberg, Rochester, N. Y., Shiro Tatsumi, Seattle, Wash., and Franco Cicogna and Alfred Kristan, two European nationals whom Ward hired in Mukden.
Other consulate staff members and dependents are Vice Consul William N. Stokes, New York; Vice Consul Red Hubbard, Edgemont, S. D.; Mary E. Braden, clerk, Dysart, La.; Eiden B. Erickson, clerk, Concordia, Kan.; Jack Feigal, clerk, Pine Island, Minn.; Walter S. Norman, clerk, Sealy, Texas, Hugo S. Picard, clerk, Fall River, Mass.; Mrs. Ward; and Tatsumi's Japanese wife and four children.
State department officials said the consulate has asked the Red government to provide rail transportation for the group from Mukden to Tientsin where they can take a ship either to British-owned Hong Kong or South Korea. From either of these places, United States planes could fly them to America.
Ward, 56, a tall, strongly built spade-bearded career official who has spent nearly 25 years in the Untied States foreign service, broke the news of his release early Wednesday in a telephone call to American Consul General O. Edmund Clubb in Peiping.
He said he and his assistants were "up and around" but gave no details of their treatment. He said the Communist court convicted them of assaulting a Chinese worker who came to the consulate on Oct.11 to demand "back pay."
The State Department branded the charge "trumped up," but the Communists never permitted Ward to tell his version.