Day by day, the violence in Indonesia is growing worse. Most badly affected are the ethnic Chinese, who are once again being treated as scapegoats for popular grievances. But the Government's efforts to control the situation are making matters even worse. By opening fire, as police did in the Sumatran city of Medan yesterday, they are only inflaming the situation and ensuring that riots, triggered by rising food prices, will continue for far longer. Even when they are finally brought under control, the social tensions caused by this IMF-inspired austerity programme will remain. Such tensions are inevitable since the state of the nation's economy is such as to make painful economic medicine unavoidable. But these need not result in violence if there is some alternative channel through which the Indonesian public can vent its grievances. Unfortunately, President Suharto has made this extremely difficult by taking such a negative attitude towards the prospects for political reform. His initial warning that any changes must wait for another five years provoked such an outcry that he was forced to qualify by this by belatedly expressing a willingness to engage in earlier discussions. Nonetheless, he is scarcely encouraging them. While his police are still shooting protesters, few are going to believe that the Government is sincere about entering into a dialogue. Mr Suharto clearly believes that the best way to protect his power is by keeping a tight lid on dissent. But the past few days have shown that Indonesia has gone beyond the point where such frustrations can be kept bottled up. Instead of prolonging his rule, such heavy-handed actions risk hastening Mr Suharto's downfall.