The younger brother of former Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun looks set to play a bigger role in the party, which is thinking about changing its leadership structure.
Some voices within the pro-business party say Michael Tien Puk-sun, who sits on the executive committee, should be given the title of vice-chairman to reflect his growing workload.
One of the party's two current vice-chairmen, Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, says he has thought about resigning but has not made a decision. Cheung, lawmaker for the catering sector, was roundly criticised in March after he suggested that the city's first statutory minimum wage should be just HK$20 an hour.
Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said no decision had been made but an extra post of vice-chairman could be an option. She sought to play down speculation that Tien would replace Cheung, though she admitted Cheung had been 'quite reluctant' to serve as vice-chairman in the past two years.
'He often said he gave a helping hand to the party after our party suffered from the withdrawal of several lawmakers in 2008,' she said.
Four Liberal Party legislators quit the party after it was routed in the 2008 Legislative Council election.
Lau said: 'We need to review our party manifesto, which states that there are only two vice-chairmen.
'It seems odd that Tien often attends public forums and gives media interviews on behalf of our party but he is only a member of our 26-strong executive committee.'
The other vice-chairman is Vincent Fang Kang, lawmaker for the wholesale and retail sector.
Lau said the Tien brothers would join party leaders at the end of the month for an informal discussion on how to adjust the leadership structure. The party's executive committee would make a decision at its meeting next month.
Asked why James Tien was taking part in the talks, Lau said it was natural for the former chairman to do so because he was still concerned about the party's development.
There is speculation that James Tien - who stepped down as party chief after losing his Legco seat in the 2008 elections - is grooming his brother as a future party chairman.
Michael Tien, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, ran for a seat in Kowloon West in the 2008 election but was defeated. He is considering contesting a seat in New Territories West in the 2012 Legco poll.
Cheung said in an interview with RTHK that he had thought about stepping down as party vice-chairman and whether he would do so depended on the availability of a suitable candidate to take up the post.
He did not think there was disagreement between the catering industry and the Liberal Party on the minimum wage and said he had never been in a difficult position.
The Liberal Party distanced itself from Cheung's remarks on the minimum wage. It proposed an hourly wage of up to HK$24 and said it had never suggested HK$20.
Cheung later apologised for his comments.