Hong Kong desperately needs a circuit-breaker to end the social unrest, one that raises hopes for peace and reconciliation. But an ominous sense of a change for the worse has emerged in a surge of violence and chaos that flared across the city yesterday. It began with news on Friday of the death of a 22-year-old student after a fall in a car park building during clashes between police and protesters. It intensified yesterday with shocking violence, including the shooting of a protester in a clash with police at Sai Wan Ho and severe burns to a man allegedly set alight in a political argument in Ma On Shan . Both are reported to be critically ill. Police have also suspended an officer who allegedly rode his motorcycle into a crowd. These incidents followed the mobilisation of demonstrators in support of a call for a general strike. Action to enforce the strike plunged traffic into chaos, with police reporting 120 instances of obstruction of MTR tracks and streets to disrupt transport. A day of violence in Hong Kong: Protester shot, man burned, Lam says government will not yield Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor finally broke her silence on one of the worst escalations of violence last night. Only last week she returned from a visit to Beijing with the full support of President Xi Jinping. The top leader also called for both “unswerving efforts to stop and punish violent activities” in accordance with the law, and more dialogue with different sectors of society. Lam cannot be faulted for unswerving efforts against violence. But it has not stopped it. There is no sign of an openness to dialogue that might break the deadlock. Her response last night condemning violence contained nothing new. It may be unreasonable to expect calm to be restored and dialogue to begin overnight. But that does not rule out some positive action or direction, rather than silence and then more of the same, when the city is in dire need of reassurance about an eventual end to violence and a beginning to reconciliation. Meanwhile, we need efficient, effective government that inspires public confidence more than ever. Troubling signs of social stress cannot be ignored. Division has split families and friends. Police are under unsustainable pressure from months of unrest, not to mention targeting of individual officers and their families, including the officer involved in yesterday’s shooting . Mainland university students are being bused to safety across the border. Unhealthy tensions between police and media continue to escalate, with a Post photographer among the latest to be pepper-sprayed. Ultimately dialogue is the only circuit-breaker to seemingly irreconcilable political unrest. The Hong Kong Forward Alliance of professionals and academics is trying to show the way to fresh thinking with a forum later this week that will include perspectives on peace-building from Northern Ireland and South Africa. It is a reminder of Xi’s call for dialogue as well as enforcement of the law.