British diplomat praised for saving drowning woman in China

Stephen Ellison (C). (Photo/BBC)

BEIJING (AP) — A British diplomat is being praised for saving a drowning woman in southwestern China.

Stephen Ellison jumped into a stream to rescue the woman after she fell into the water in a village on the outskirts of Chongqing. Ellison is the British consul general in the Chinese city.

Ellison, 61, told the BBC he had seen the woman pulled under a bridge with her head under the water.

“So really, there wasn’t a lot of time to do anything other than to get in,” Ellison said.

Footage shot by onlookers showed Ellison tearing off his shoes and jumping in fully clothed. A life ring was thrown to the pair but Ellison swam to the bank by himself as others pulled the woman from the water.

Ellison received overwhelming praise on the Chinese internet, with some contrasting his fast action during the Saturday morning incident with the relative passivity of the onlookers. Footage posted online racked up millions of views, with commenters praising the selfless act.

“We welcome this type of foreigner. Saving lives really has no borders,” read one comment on the Twitter-like Wechat microblogging forum.

China-Britain relations have been under strain in recent months over trade, London’s condemnation of China’s crackdown on opposition figures in the former British colony of Hong Kong and Beijing’s detention of more than 1 million members of Muslim minority groups in the northwestern territory of Xinjiang.