TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Video surfaced on Monday (Nov. 16) showing a senior British diplomat rescuing a drowning student in China as dozens of Chinese stood idly by and watched.
On Monday, the British Embassy in Beijing posted a video of Chongqing Consul General Stephen Ellison, 61, leaping into a river to save a 24-year-old college student who was drowning. Ellison received much praise for his bravery, while the Chinese onlookers were criticized for failing to act and having to rely on the bravery of a foreign diplomat.
According to the embassy, Ellison, who was visiting Zhongshan Ancient Town in Chongqing on Saturday (Nov. 14), heard people shouting that a woman had slipped into the river and appeared to be drowning. In the video, people can be heard shouting hysterically as a woman flails in the rapidly flowing river before disappearing under a footbridge.
She then surfaces on the other side of the bridge, face down and barely moving. Ellison can be seen taking off his shoes and jumping off a rock ledge into the water — alone.
He quickly swims towards her, turns her over, and pulls her back to land, as is the recommended technique for rescuing drowning individuals. A woman in the background can be heard observing that it was "still" a foreigner who had taken the initiative.
An onlooker finally tosses a life preserver, which Ellison grabs. The good Samaritan who threw the life preserver then begins to pull Ellison toward the ledge.
A handful of the now 100-plus onlookers then slowly walk over to try to help pluck the limp woman from the water. The video closes with her being pulled onto a rock outcropping.
Ellison told the BBC that at first, she was unconscious and not breathing, "and for a short time we feared the worst. But as we got back to the side, she started breathing again." The villagers were reportedly extremely grateful to Ellison, giving him a set of dry clothes and a cup of hot coffee.
The woman, who is from Wuhan and attends Chongqing University, was traumatized by the incident but is gradually recovering, according to Ellison. He said that she was very thankful for the rescue and has invited him to join her family for dinner the next weekend.
Western netizens criticized the Chinese passersby for not taking action:
"Thank goodness a non-Chinese person was there amongst the swathes of onlookers or she would have drowned."
"Look there's a person drowning! Chinese: Point and shout. Get phone out and video. Shout and point some more. British: Hold my shoes."
"The Chinese along the river will only take a mobile phone to shoot video, not to save people! grief! Thank you for the hero."
Meanwhile, Chinese netizens on Weibo praised Ellison while criticizing their own for not taking action:
"Chinese people's friend."
"You'd call such a person a knight in the UK; in China we call him a hero."
"So many people did not jump in to save the girl, but waited for a foreigner to save her?”
"Most of them were taking videos, and there were only a few who saved her, and the first one was a foreigner!”
Chinese citizens are notorious for failing to come to the aid of strangers in need, with many citing a fear of lawsuits from the injured party. China in 2017 finally passed a good Samaritan law, but old habits have been slow to change.
Ellison is reportedly very active in sports and took first place in his age group at the 2019 Beijing International Triathlon. The UK's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Tuesday (Nov. 17) praised Ellison in a tweet: "His bravery and commitment demonstrates the very best of British diplomats around the world."
We are all immensely proud of our Chongqing Consul General, Stephen Ellison, who dived into a river on Saturday to rescue a drowning student and swim her to safety. pic.twitter.com/OOgXqsK5oe— UK in China