Thousands of people in Hong Kong are expected to attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government's brutal military crackdown nearly three decades ago on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Sunday night's (4 June) gathering in downtown Victoria Park is an annual affair that regularly draws tens of thousands. It's the only large-scale commemoration on Chinese territory of the bloodshed 28 years ago.

Commemoration of the Tiananmen events remains taboo in mainland China. However it is openly discussed in Hong Kong, a special Chinese region with much autonomy.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters and onlookers were killed late on June 3 and the early hours of June 4, 1989, after China's communist leaders ordered the military to retake Tiananmen Square from the student-led demonstrators.

The Tiananmen protests are perhaps best remembered for the iconic "tank man" photo, of a single protester standing up in front of an armed military vehicle. His fate is unknown.

tiananmen square hong kong
A student wearing a T-shirt with the date of the massacre written on it prepares to sing to commemorate the anniversary AFP