Meet the UK diplomat being hailed as a hero

The British diplomat who has been hailed as a hero for rescuing a drowning student in China over the weekend, says a deep relief overcame him when she started breathing and he saw she'd be okay.

Stephen Ellison is Britain's consul-general in Chongqing and was at a scenic spot when he saw the commotion. He told Reuters he whipped off his shoes and dived in.

"It was pretty clear quite quickly that she was in trouble. She couldn't swim and she was submerged when she came up and floating on the surface of the water.

"Yeah, I mean, there were quite stark moments. Like I say when I reached her and turned her over and put my hand over her chin, she wasn't breathing and I really did fear the worst. And it's not a very nice feeling.

"When she started breathing again it was just a really really deep sense of relief, really deep sense of relief.

"The people on the side threw in a lifebuoy, which was great, so I held onto that and they pulled us both to the side.

"The villagers were really kind and very warm. So they took me into the nearby house. They took my clothes, gave me a change of clothes, washed my clothes and dried them, gave me some coffee, some Yunnan coffee, which was very delicious and just really really really kind and very warm. So I spent a few hours there and by the time the young student had recovered, she came and we met which was very sweet. She was clearly a little shocked but she was in good shape.

"I'm happy to tell the story. And it's a great story and if people take some pleasure from that, then great. But I'm back to my day job very very quickly so I'm not getting carried away with it for sure.

Sino-British ties are strained over China's crackdown on protests in Hong Kong, but the rescue went viral on social media there, and the Chinese foreign ministry has praised Ellison's "heroic behaviour".