First it was Presidents George W. Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy and Shimon Peres coming to Beijing for the Olympics. Now, it’s Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
According to a press release, the founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which promotes religious freedom and human rights, will be fanning himself in the stands at that impending propaganda sequel known as the Olympic closing ceremony on Sunday. Schneier is also planning to rub elbows with some of the Chinese government’s anonymous head-honchos, including Vice Premier Hui Liangyu and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi. He must have a packed schedule, since Buddhist, Daoist, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders are on the schmooze list as well. Schneier intends to discuss the state of human rights and religious freedom (or the lack of it) in China.
How much he will accomplish remains to be seen. In recent weeks, scores of would-be protesters have been detained, minorities have been terrorized and thousands of poor workers have been banished from Beijing.
As head of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Scheier led the first inter-faith delegation to China back in 1981 and was one of three American clergy members picked by President Bill Clinton to initiate the first official dialogue on religious freedom with President Jiang Zemin and other top Chinese leaders. Not surprisingly, there is room for more conversation.