Spy-case academic Li Shaomin is likely to quit City University after he had an application to take a year's unpaid leave to teach in the United States rejected by his bosses. He believes the rejection might be linked to his conviction on spying charges by a Beijing court last year and his complaint against the university for deducting $48,000 from his salary for his five-month detention. Dr Li, 45, associate professor in the department of marketing, applied for leave starting from July to take up the post of associate professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He told the South China Morning Post he would go to the United States anyway: 'I have accepted the offer. If the university rejects my unpaid leave application, I will not accept the one-year extension of my contract.' His two-year contract is due to expire in June and it has been recommended that it be extended for one year from then. Dr Ma Ngok, a social scientist at the University of Science and Technology, said the university had the discretion to approve the application but the case might arouse suspicions that the rejection was politically motivated. In an e-mail to Dr Li last Tuesday, dean of the Faculty of Business, Professor Chan Lai-kow, said both he and Dr Joe Zhou Nan, head of the department of marketing, rejected Dr Li's application on the grounds he was a contract employee. But Dr Li, who has taught at the university on contract terms since 1996, said there was no provision in the handbook saying university staff who were on contract could not apply for unpaid leave. It is understood that several academics at the university who are on contract terms, including a faculty dean, have been granted unpaid leave to teach at overseas universities. Dr Li, a US citizen, was arrested in Shenzhen on February 25 last year. He was expelled to the United States after being convicted of spying for Taiwan. The hearing was held behind closed doors and no details of it or the charges on which Dr Li was found guilty have been released by mainland authorities. The academic, who denies the spying accusation, was allowed back into Hong Kong on July 30. The university council decided five days later to let him keep his job as associate professor.