Posted October. 01, 2008 03:00,
A Taiwanese daily said yesterday that the Chinese government knew about melamine-tainted milk power before the Beijing Olympics, but covered it up.
United Daily News said the Chinese weekly Southern Weekend found in late July infants who contracted kidney stones by eating the milk powder products of San Lu, the infamous company which triggered the melamine scare. The weekly was about to report the case.
The central propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party, which controls the media, issued a gag order and banned the publication. The department said any negative coverage on Chinese food safety would harm the Olympics.
When the melamine-tainted powder surfaced September 11, Chinese Web users had spread rumors that their government covered up the problem for the sake of the Olympics. But United Daily News was the first media to confirm the rumor.
Reporter Fu Jianfeng, who had looked into the case along with one of his colleagues since July, wrote a post on his blog (blog.sina.com.cn/fujianfeng) alleging a slew of infants in Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces got kidney stones from eating San Lus milk powder in June and July this year.
A considerable number of doctors knew that San Lus products caused the disease, and dissuaded the victims parents from feeding their babies with the products. They reported the problem to the Chinese Health Ministry and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
Beijing, however, tried to cover up the case by banning media probes and coverage and making food safety officials announce that the products were safe.
Fus post looked into the matter again after the Olympics, and confirmed that the number of victims was rising. Thus Fu alleged that despite his August 13 (the correct date must have been August 11) attempt to run an article on the case, it did not materialize for reasons the weekly does not know of.
United Daily News said Beijing is preventing the media from investigating and covering up the melamine case even after its official September 11 announcement, except for Xinhua News Agency. Fus post has been cut out from his blog.