Michael Tien Puk-sun has experienced an ideological rebirth. Days after quitting the pro-business Liberal Party, the wealthy businessman said he moved from the right to the political centre after witnessing first-hand the hardships of ordinary people. But the political shift also has a more prosaic explanation: Tien acknowledged plans to run in direct elections for the legislature in 2012. 'I saw their helplessness when I spent more time mingling with the people,' Tien said during a radio interview yesterday. 'It is important to take care of the well-being of both the employers and workers. I think I have shifted left from being pro-business to the centre, but I do not think I will move further.' A Hong Kong deputy to the National People's Congress and chairman of the G2000 garment retailer, Tien (pictured) said he hoped to be a role model for businesspeople on how to take part in politics. He said his political position now involved balancing the interests of bosses and workers, but this stance was in conflict with that of the Liberal Party. All three of its lawmakers represent trade-based functional constituencies in the legislature. 'Some lawmakers' sectors require them to stand on the side of business,' Tien said. If that meant he could never speak out against the interests of business, 'I cannot do it.' Commercial Radio programme host May Chan Suk-mei challenged Tien on whether his resignation from the party was based on a calculation that it would enhance his chances of winning in the next Legco elections. 'I would have stayed if I were really good at calculating political utility,' was his reply. 'Although the Liberal Party could not win directly elected seats in the previous Legco elections, at least they have a certain level of support.' Tien admitted he was preparing to run in the geographical constituency elections in 2012 and was hoping to contest a seat in Kowloon West or New Territories West. His community work had brought him closer to the public, he said. The rift between Tien and the Liberal Party became public when he supported a boycott of Cafe de Coral after the fast-food chain said it would cancel paid meal breaks for workers in return for a moderate pay rise. The company backed down from its proposal after a public outcry. Party vice-chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, the lawmaker for the catering sector, fiercely attacked Tien at the time for his stance. Yesterday, Tien said profitable businesses should do more than what the law required. 'I cannot accept a leading company in the sector cancelling some original staff benefits,' he said. 'In the long run, such [benefits] actually help boost morale and reputation.' He said after Cafe de Coral reversed its decision, he ate meals in different outlets of the chain for three days to show his support. Tien was unrepentant about leaving the party despite attempts by its leaders at reconciliation. 'The Liberal Party knows what I believe in,' Tien said. He considered quitting six months ago, he said, but stayed longer because party leaders persuaded him to do so.