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Top Chinese computer expert told to leave UK: Academic told job should go to European

A LEADING Chinese computer academic has been ordered to leave Britain within a month on the ground that his job should be given to a citizen of the European Union.

Dr Xu Li-Quin, who has been working in Britain for more than four years, is regarded as one of the world's leading experts on artificial intelligence. His prospective employer said yesterday that it was very disappointed by the Government's decision.

Dr Xu, who has bought a house with his wife in southern England, was told by the Home Office on 15 June that he would have to leave Britain within a month. 'Everything is here,' he said. 'I've been working for four years and paying tax. And I have nowhere to go, and no job to go to.'

The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases but added that it was normal to expel illegal immigrants to leave within 28 days. A spokesman said: 'If he has a problem then he should contact us.'

The Department of Employment, which rejected his work permit application, said it was unable to comment on the case or to confirm that Dr Xu has no right to appeal against the decision.

The decision, which will fuel concern about the sense of the Government's immigration policy, has been denounced by other academics. Graham Tattersall, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, has called on John Gummer, his local MP, to intervene. 'You will not want us to shoot ourselves in the foot yet again by throwing away a much-needed talent,' he wrote in a letter of 20 June - to which there has been no reply.

The University of Abertay in Dundee, which had offered Dr Xu a job as lecturer in computer science, condemned the decision. 'We appoint the best candidates for a job and we are very disappointed by this,' said David Hogarth, an assistant principal.

He said Dr Xu had been selected because other candidates, some from European countries, were not as good. The university had applied on Dr Xu's behalf for a work permit in March. Two months later, the Home Office said the application had been rejected because the role should be filled by an applicant from the EU. The university has extended its offer by a month in the hope that the Government will reconsider.

The university offered him the job because he had a 'uniquely suitable mix of skills' and 'wide experience of artifical neural network techniques'. British candidates were considered inferior.

Dr Xu, 32, came to Britain from China in 1990, when he was awarded a Royal Society/British Telecom research fellowship at the University of East Anglia. When the fellowship ended, he worked at the University of Sussex, and then King's College, London.

Dr Xu said: 'I have worked hard here and I hope I have made some contribution to science in this country, and then I am told to leave within a matter of days. It is very sad for me.'

Mr Tattersall said: 'This appears more like the actions of an East European state in the 1970s than the actions of a country in which I could feel pride'. (Photograph omitted)