Thousands protested outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Monday, amid a row over a controversial national education programme.
The protesters accuse the government of trying to brainwash students with pro-China education and want the programme to be scrapped.
But the government says it is about building national pride and identity.
Protests have been rumbling for months, but built over the weekend before the start of the new school year.
A small number of activists have been taking part in hunger strikes.
The government wants schools to introduce the programme now and plans to make it compulsory by 2016.
But protesters - who comprise parents, students and teachers - say its core aim is to bolster support for China's communist rulers.
They have highlighted a government booklet that they say glorifies Communist Party rule in China while ignoring sensitive issues.
Some 8,000 people joined Monday night's protest, reports said.
On Tuesday Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung said it was premature to withdraw the programme, Hong Kong's RTHK reported
He said opponents of the programme should join a government-appointed committee on the subject and air their concerns there, the broadcaster said.
Deputy leader Carrie Lam said on Monday that more dialogue was needed on the issue.
"The important thing is to ensure that the public concern or the parents' and the students' worry about the so-called brainwashing will not happen," Reuters news agency quoted her as saying.
"But that will only be achievable by more communication between the various stakeholders and by putting the trust in the school sponsoring authorities and the individual schools."