Beijing, Sept.25 : Chinese authorities ordered a cover-up of a tainted milk scandal that has poisoned tens of thousands of babies because they feared social unrest if the news was made public, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
Senior officials gave the order to Sanlu, the firm whose poisoned milk powder is said to be responsible for at least four deaths and illness in almost 53,000 infants.
It was passed on during three meetings at which the company told officials in the city of Shijiazhuang, where the company is based, of the extent of the crisis.
AQSIQ had already carried complaints on its website from a doctor concerned about the numbers of children who had drunk Sanlu suffering from kidney stones.
The central government has issued orders to suppress "bad news", including about health scares, during the period of the Olympic Games, which were due to start the same week.
But the authorities also said they were concerned about the effect on "social stability", according to a source briefed by those present.
"Social instability" is a catch-all phrase used by the Chinese government for public protest.
The details of the meetings are the first confirmation that the cover-up was deliberate policy and not bureaucratic inertia.