A lengthy editorial in the official People's Daily argued today that the rehabilitation of the late president Liu Shao-chi was in accord with the wishes of the late chairman Mao Tse-tung, even if Mao seemed to be Liu's great political enemy in the last years of his life.

The tortuously reasoned editorial, apparently designed to resolve what has been widespread confusion and doubt caused by the complete reversal of official policy toward Liu, came on the eve of an elaborate memorial service for the veteran communist, who died of an untreated illness in a prison cell in 1969.

"The rehabilitation of Comrade Liu Shao-chi was naturally bound to have repercussions, giving rise to various distortions," the editorial said. "But if Central Committee knew the case to be false and kept this secret without redressing it or without doing so publicly for reasons of expediency, then it would . . . deviate from Mao Tse-tung thought and would be guilty of a breach of faith."

The newspaper also announced the composition at the 208-member funeral committee including important national leaders for Saturday's memorial service in the Great Hall of the People. The service is closed to foreigners, but is expected to be televised nationwide.

The editorial indicated Chinese leaders cannot directly abandon Mao, despite his efforts to overturn the party leadership in his last years, because he is too closely associated in the minds of all Chinese with the Communist Party, and because his earlier efforts for the party are appreciated. The editorial argued that Mao personally rehabilitated many of Liu's colleagues and left an unspoken hint that he might have done the same for Liu eventually. In a mild reference to Mao's last years of excess, the editorial said he followed a correct policy "for a long time in his life."