A man threatening to commit suicide by jumping from a Chinese bridge was app­roached by a passer-by who shoved him over the edge.

Lai Jiansheng (66) said he was fed up with the desperate man's "selfish activity" which caused huge traffic jams in Guangzhou, southern China.

Chen Fuchao fell 26ft on to an air cushion and is recovering in hospital.

The drama unfolded when Chen climbed on to Haizhu Bridge in Guangzhou on Thursday and threatened to jump. He told police he wanted to kill himself because he was 2m yuan (€210,000) in debt following a failed construction project.

Traffic around the bridge was stopped for five hours while officers tried to coax Chen to safety.

Retired soldier Lai at first volunteered to try to talk Chen down but was turned away by police. Lai is said to have then broken through the police cordon, climbed to where Chen sat, greeted him with a handshake – and then pushed him off the edge.

Pictures in the China Daily show Chen saluting the crowd after fell on to the partially filled emergency air cushion.

"I pushed him off because jumpers like Chen are very selfish," Lai said.

Chen is said to have suffered spine and elbow injuries and is recovering in hospital.