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Emails sent to a Chinese dissident in the Netherlands about his family were fake, officials say

BANGKOK (AP) — Emails sent to a Chinese dissident living in the Netherlands over his petition for asylum for his family members detained last year in Thailand were apparently fake, Dutch authorities said Friday.

The announcement was the first public statement from officials in the Netherlands in the unusual case of Gao Zhi, whose family members were stranded for months at a Thai immigration center while en route to the Netherlands and allegedly accused of sending bomb threats.

Based on emails he said he received, Gao at the time alleged that the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service had revoked his family’s visas, which would have allowed them to travel to the Netherlands.

He showed purported screenshots of the emails to the media, including one that ultimately said visas for his family members were revoked as they were being investigated for bomb threats made in Thailand. It remains unclear who sent the emails.

Gao declined to forward the emails to The Associated Press at the time, saying he feared this could jeopardize his family’s asylum case. The AP could not verify the authenticity of his claims.

On Friday, Britt Enthoven, a spokesperson for the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the “message indeed doesn’t seem to be from” the service.

“I cannot give you any further information about the message,” Enthoven said.

Gao, though critical of the Chinese government online, had never been an activist back home. But his story at the time raised concerns that Chinese authorities may have made the bomb threats in the name of Gao’s family to try and control his political activities abroad.

Gao’s wife and two children were traveling to the Netherlands to join him in June and July last year, and transiting