Chinese academics working in the United States have been rushing to seek citizenship as a safeguard following the detention and subsequent conviction of City University academic Li Shaomin on spying charges. Professor Frankie Leung Fook-lun, from the University of Southern California Law School, said academics studying in China had closely monitored events surrounding Professor Li's case. He said he was told by several political science professors that some US-based Chinese scholars doing PhDs and post-doctorate research on the mainland had postponed field work until later this year. Dr Li, who is a US citizen and marketing associate professor at City University, was convicted in Beijing of spying for Taiwan and deported to the US last month. Dr Li, who had been detained on the mainland for more than four months, was subsequently allowed to return to Hong Kong and keep his job. The academic, who was accused of passing on state secrets, insisted he was only collecting industrial data and scholars' views for academic purposes. 'Scholars and researchers engaged in the study of China have been paying a great deal of attention to Dr Li's case,' Professor Leung said. He said opinions among his university-teaching colleagues from the mainland were divided on the impact of Dr Li's case. Those involved in teaching or research in the engineering, science, finance or accounting fields were on the whole not worried. But Professor Leung said social scientists, whose research in China involved collecting data, were scared of the consequences. 'Many of those who have hesitated to get naturalised as US citizens have now decided to get it,' he added. He said patriotic sentiments and fear of arousing antagonistic feelings in China had made some Chinese intellectuals hesitate in acquiring US citizenship in the past. But the disparity in the treatment of US citizens and Chinese nationals in Dr Li's case persuaded even them to seek a US passport for protection. Dr Li was ordered to be deported with no further punishment following his conviction, but Qu Wei, a Chinese national convicted of passing information to Dr Li via another American-Chinese scholar, Gao Zhan, received a 13-year jail sentence. Ms Gao, a Chinese citizen with permanent residency in the US, was sentenced to a 10-year jail term but was released on medical parole last month. Professor Leung said it was a wise decision to allow Dr Li to return to Hong Kong and his job. 'If the SAR Government follows closely the central Government's policies, Hong Kong will no longer be a place where Western scholars can conduct research on China,' he said. Professor Leung said Hong Kong had served as a focal point for China-research activities but any tightening of immigration control for scholars and researchers would discourage them.