The resignation of Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu so he may run for the post of chief executive has ended a great deal of speculation on Beijing’s choice for Hong Kong’s next leader. However, the journey from government No 2 to taking the helm has only just begun. From winning the support of the Election Committee and the public to restoring business confidence and rebuilding the city, there is a lot on his plate. The way forward will not be easy and he has to prove himself capable. With all signs pointing to Lee being the “chosen one”, the outcome of the ballot on May 8 may seem like a foregone conclusion. Some may even dismiss it as being not much of an election. Like it or not, the electoral revamps imposed by Beijing last year have made the leadership race one with so-called Hong Kong characteristics. Lee is set to be the first leader from the disciplined services. He rose through the ranks to become deputy police chief in 2010. He later joined the political team as undersecretary for security and was elevated to secretary for security in 2017 and chief secretary last June, with special focus on the implementation of the national security law. Even though the political environment has somewhat stabilised, Beijing’s choice says a lot about its emphasis on the city’s governance. Economic prosperity is no less important, though. Hong Kong desperately needs to move beyond the political turbulence and coronavirus pandemic. Unlike incumbent Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and a previous leader, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who had wider exposure because of their backgrounds as administrative officers, Lee’s portfolio is more focused. He needs to win support from a broader spectrum of society and reflect confidence in the city as an international finance centre. Lee said he would announce more details once his resignation had been formally cleared by Beijing. The lack of competition does not necessarily make the electoral process easier. Lee still has to map out his election manifesto and vision for Hong Kong, as well as engage Election Committee members and the public, which will be especially challenging. His handling of the extradition bill that sparked the 2019 unrest and the subsequent enactment of the national security law has upset parts of society, as reflected in his low scores in opinion polls. However, he has received solid support from the pro-establishment camp. John Lee resigns to be ‘only Hong Kong leadership option with Beijing’s blessing’ Lam pledged to heal the rifts and reconnect with the people when she clinched the top job in 2017, only to make it worse with more political controversies. Whether Lee can rise to the challenge remains to be seen. As head of the special administrative region, the chief executive is responsible to both Beijing and those in Hong Kong. While he has received the political blessing to come forward, he must work hard to win the hearts and minds of the people.