BEIJING, AUG. 17 -- It took the famous playwright Wu Zuguang a full year of formalities to become a member of the Chinese communist party. It took 30 minutes to force him out.
The man from the Politburo arrived at Wu's apartment promptly at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1. He read to Wu from a party document which he carried in his briefcase.
The man from the Politburo was Hu Giaomu, 75, sometimes referred to as the czar of ideology and culture in China.
Hu carried the message that following a high-level party meeting, Wu Zuguang, who joined the party in 1980, was being asked to resign.
In an interview this weekend, Wu said he thought that his forced resignation from the party was the result of "reformers" in the party leadership making concessions to traditionalists.
Analysts believe that Wu's ouster may be part of a tradeoff, whereby the country's top leader Deng Xiaoping agrees to conservative demands for tighter controls over ideology. In exchange, the conservatives accept certain economic reforms.
The arty has said nothing publicly about Wu's resignation. Although there may be more forced resignations, a government source said they will probably be limited to fewer than 10 persons. Party leaders said earlier this year that they would limit their public criticism of intellectuals to three prominent party members who were expelled in January following student pro-democracy demonstrations.
In China, the first battleground for political conflicts is often the literary arts. While he may be a reformer when it comes to economics, Deng Xiaoping is a conservative when it comes to the arts. Wu Zuguang said that the decision to oust him could not have been made without Deng's approval.
Hu Giaomu, meanwhile, may have special reasons of his own for wanting to punish Wu. Hu, the leading Marxist ideologue in the 20-man ruling Politburo, and Wu, the playwright, are in many ways opposites.
Hu, former personal secretary of the late communist party chairman Mao Tse-tung, is widely known as a conservative. He worries about what he calls "spiritual pollution" from Western influences.
Wu Zuguang, who writes plays, poems and operas, does not claim to know much about the Marxist theories which so concern Hu Giaomu. but he has opposed ideological campaigns launched in the name of Marxist purity which repress writers and artists.
Wu has been a victim of every campaign from the "anti-rightist" movement of 1957 to the 1983 campaign against spiritual pollution.
Like many of his colleagues, Wu was not able to publish for some 20 years. During the cultural revolution years, he spent three years in exile in the frozen wilderness of northeast China.
His wife, Xin Fengxia, 57, a former Beijing opera star, was forced to clean toilets and dig air raid shelters during the cultural revolution. She lost the use of her left hand when she fell ill and failed to get adequate medical treatment.
Wu Zuguang believes that one thing which got him into trouble this time with the party -- and with Hu Giaomu -- was his public criticism of the 1983 campaign against spiritual pollution, which Hu Giaomu had helped to orchestrate. At the Fourth Chinese Writers Association meeting, Wu described the campaign as "stupid."
He said that writers who participated in the campaign had been duped.
Wu seems to have little to lose from leaving the party. The party has recently also moved against at least two other intellectuals who appear to have much more to lose.
Government sources said that Su Shaozhi, the director of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung Thought, may not be dismissed from the party but his institute would be dissolved. Su has advocated Western-style checks and balances to restrict the powers of the party.
The sources said that Wang Ruoshui, a liberal theorist, was resisting a request to resign from the party.
Su and Wang are both long-time party members. Su may now find it difficult to publish his writings.
Wang, who earlier lost his job as deputy editor of the People's Daily newspaper, has not been able to publish under his name during the past year.
Wu Zuguang said that the document cited by Hu Giaomu gave three reasons for his forced resignation:
He allegedly opposed the party leadership in the 1950s.
He did not take his admission into the party seriously.
And in December 1986, he called for an end to censorship of writers. Only a weak and failing party must censor writers, Wu wrote. Such was the case of the Kuomintang, or nationalist party, before it was defeated by the communists in 1949.
Wu asserted that the party had already dropped allegations against him from the 1950s and that he never thought that joining the party was a joking matter. Hu Giaomu conceded that this latter allegation was based on Hong Kong reports, which he then admitted may have been unreliable.
Wu admitted to writing the article advocating a lifting of censorship, but he said that Hu Giaomu's criticism of it was based on portions which were never published in China.
Wu was given the choice of withdrawing from the party or of being expelled. He said that he agreed to resign to avoid making the matter into a bigger issue.CAPTION:Deng Xiaoping