British Diplomat Praised as 'Hero and Gentleman' After China Rescue

61-year-old consul saved drowning woman
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2020 2:55 PM CST

Diplomatic relations between China and Britain are currently tense—but one British diplomat is being praised as a "friend of China" after a dramatic rescue. Steven Ellison, the 61-year-old British consul general in Chongqing, took off his shoes and dived into a fast-flowing river on Saturday to rescue a drowning woman, the BBC reports. The woman, a 24-year-old student, had fallen into the water after slipping on rocks. She was seen struggling in the water before floating under a footbridge and emerging face-down, apparently unconscious. Video shows Ellison swimming to the woman before bringing her to safety with the help of a life ring somebody had thrown down. "She was not breathing and for a short time we feared the worst. But as we got back to the side, she started breathing again," says Ellison.

Villagers gave Ellison dry clothes and warm drinks. The diplomat, who takes part in triathlons, says the woman was shaken by the experience, but was deeply grateful and has invited him to dinner with her family. The British diplomatic mission in China says it is "immensely proud" of Ellison, whose actions were praised by social media users in China. "For a man of such advanced age to save another person from the water in such cold weather, regardless of his own safety, he is a hero and gentleman," said one user. Other commenters criticized people at the scene who failed to act, the New York Times reports. "It was outrageous," one user wrote. "Most of them were taking videos, and there were only a few of them saving her, and the first one was a foreigner!!!" (More China stories.)

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