Six members from Progressive Engineering, a pro-democracy group, were disqualified from running as candidates for the Chief Executive Election Committee because they did not have “substantial connection” to the engineering sub-sector, said the group in a statement on Wednesday. They described the disqualifications as a “black box affair.”

Hong Kong’s leader is elected by the committee, which consists of 1,200 members representing four sectors, under which 38 sub-sectors represent various trades, professions, social services groups and district organisations.

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One of the disqualified candidates of Progressive Engineering (left). Photo: Progressive Engineering via Facebook.

Progressive Engineering formed a group of 26 to run in the elections this year. Among the six, four are workers, one is a union officer, and another is a company’s board member. The remaining 20, whose nominations were accepted, are mostly engineers, but also includes an academic, a CEO, and company board members.

The government announced that it received 1,553 nominations for the committee on Tuesday. Many came from pro-democracy advocates hoping to expand their influence in next year’s leadership election.

“Progressive Engineering is shocked by the decision of the returning officer, because the six members who have been disqualified all worked on construction projects for many years. They have the skills and experience, are working on construction projects, and [have] union membership. There is ample objective evidence which demonstrates that each of them have ‘close ties’ with the engineering sub-sector,” said the group in a statement published on Tuesday.

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Progressive Engineering’s slogan, “Nothing But Equality.” Photo: Progressive Engineering via Facebook.

The Progressive Engineering group said the slogan “Anyone But CY” was meaningless and ran under a slogan calling for “Nothing But Equality” instead. It advocates equality, universal suffrage and sustainable development.

The group said that the engineering sub-sector does not just include engineers. “The entire nomination system is a black box affair – there is zero transparency, and the disqualification of six members’ right to run lacks a legal basis,” it said. It added that the matter “fully exposed the election committee system’s absurdity.”

It said that it will make an official complaint against the disqualifications and consider the next plan of action.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions also said in a statement on Wednesday that four of six who were disqualified were workers who worked on the front line and were part of the “backbone” of the confederation.

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Statement from Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions. Photo: Facebook screencap.

“Every frontline worker in the construction field has some degree of professional qualification. Workers have worked hard on construction projects – sometimes there are even injuries or death. If there are no workers, then there are no construction projects. We dare to ask the Registration and Electoral Office: if workers do not belong to the engineering sub-sector, then where should they belong?” it said.

It also asked if the electoral office wanted to tell Hong Kongers that the system of election by the committee was only to serve the rich and the powerful. It is reserving many seats for the elite, but sidelines workers, the statement said.

Meanwhile, Tommy Cheung, a student leader in the pro-democracy Occupy protests of 2014 and a current student of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, also said on Thursday morning that he received notice of disqualification from the higher education sub-sector. However, he did not disclose the reason for his disqualification.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.