Twenty years ago, Hong Kong’s leader secured a second term unopposed. Incumbent Tung Chee-hwa was the sole candidate supported by Beijing. This meant no other candidate could get enough nominations to challenge him. Tung, a shipping tycoon, faced a challenging time. Hong Kong was enduring a severe economic downturn. Controversial new national security laws were in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the world was reeling from the 9/11 terror attacks and the US invasion of Afghanistan. The following year would see an outbreak of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars). On Sunday, a new leader will be elected. Again, there will be no contest. Career policeman John Lee Ka-chiu will, no doubt, receive overwhelming support from the 1,461 privileged members of the Election Committee who get to vote. He, like all winners of the city’s chief executive elections, is Beijing’s chosen candidate. There are parallels to the past. Hong Kong is facing serious economic headwinds again. The world has, once more, been shaken by an armed conflict, this time Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And Lee has made the passing of new security laws one of his priorities. The city is again grappling with a deadly virus. The new leader will be anxious to avoid history repeating itself. Tung resigned in 2005, before the end of his second term, after the shelving of his security law proposals following a mass protest. John Lee vows to make reopening Hong Kong’s borders a priority But Hong Kong today is a different place. Never mind the passage of 20 years, it is the last three that have seen the city transformed. Civil unrest in 2019 was followed by a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing. Opposition figures have been arrested and the political system overhauled to ensure only “patriots” govern Hong Kong. All this took place during the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen the city isolated from the rest of the world. Some things, however, do not change. Tung, speaking after being sworn in as chief executive in 2002, said Hong Kong was “arriving at a turning point”. He promised a new style of government. The city, said Tung, had to build on its competitive edge and entrench its position as an international financial centre. He spoke of hope and called on Hong Kong people to work together. Lee expressed similar sentiments at his rally on Friday. He urged the city to work with him to “start a new chapter”. Hong Kong must consolidate its status as an international metropolis, he said. Lee, too, has pledged to restructure government and bring in a new style of leadership. There will be a “result-oriented” approach. It sounds a little like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s mantra that he will “get the job done”. If this means sound, decisive leadership and the cutting of red tape, all well and good. But any leader who promises results raises expectations. Hong Kong’s sole chief executive hopeful rallies crowd at Wan Chai event It is also important that procedural safeguards are not sidestepped or ignored in the name of “results”. The checks and balances in the system are there to ensure good policymaking and to avoid mistakes being made. There is a balance to be struck. Consultation with the general public is essential. I am a little puzzled by the slogan “We and Us”. Maybe it has lost something in translation. The two words mean essentially the same thing. Presumably it is intended to signal togetherness, the opposite of “them and us”. Lee says his vision for Hong Kong is that of an inclusive, vibrant, caring, diverse, free and open city. If this is what his “new chapter” involves, it can’t come soon enough. But it would involve a sharp change in direction and a fresh image for the new leader, best known for his record as a tough police and security chief. Let us hope that transformation takes place. A return to Hong Kong’s traditional core values, key to the city’s past success, would be a fitting way of marking the 25th anniversary of its return to China. Lee has promised results. Now, he must deliver.