He said the woman had slipped into the river, and “it was clear very quickly that she was in trouble, she could not swim.”
“There was not a lot of time to do anything other than get involved,” Ellison told the BBC.
After Alison is caught by the woman in the river, a spectator throws a floating device in the water. Allison then takes the woman for life, and the men drag the pair to the Riverbank.
The news agency Xinhua quoted local officials as saying, “Thanks to the rescue, the student soon resumed breathing and became conscious.”
The British Embassy said it was “extremely proud” of Ellison.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Rab tweeted, “His bravery and commitment show British diplomats around the world very well.”
China’s state-run CGTN reported that some viewers brought Alison back to her home after the incident. He was given some dry clothes, coffee and food.
CGTN reported that he also gave a 6-meter (20 ft) painting scroll of the ancient city of Zhongshan as a gift.
After the student was recovered, he and Alison had a drink together, the diplomat told the BBC. She invited him to a meal, and Alison said she hoped to accept soon.
Additional reporting by Reuters.