For a group of undercover policemen, they were certainly fashionably dressed. The man who introduced himself as ‘Mr Joe’ wore a trendy ‘Abercrombie’ t-shirt.
His colleagues had chosen stripy polo shirts with contemporary ‘man-bags’, made from leather and canvas.
But there was nothing particularly friendly about them as they started grilling me, my cameraman Matt Jasper and our Chinese translator, who found himself in the middle of something he definitely hadn’t bargained for.
We’d arrived at the flat of a well-known human rights advocate called Huang Qi about twenty minutes previously.
He lives in an ordinary tower block in the south-eastern Chinese city of Chengdu and uses his living room as an office, dispensing legal advice to visitors and to many others through his website.
Mr Huang is not a qualified lawyer – he says qualified advocates wouldn’t take on the sort of work he does– fighting for the little guys when they make complaints against the one party, top-down power that is the Chinese state.
In this way, he’s a lot like Chen Guangcheng, the blind, self-educated lawyer who took on cases on behalf local peasants and the disabled– before angering local officials in Shandong Province by exposing a program of forced abortions and sterilizations.
His improbable journey, by way of prison and house imprisonment, ended last weekend when he was flown to safety in the United States.
But there are hundreds of other activists and dissidents who cannot hope to be so fortunate.
We got a small taste of what life is like for Mr Huang on this Friday afternoon.
When the police came in, he stood up, offered them a seat and a slice of watermelon (both refused) and returned to his desk. He was soon tapping out the news of our detention to his internet followers.
Later he told me, “we can’t stop working just because the police come into my flat. We need to show them that they can’t stop us from getting our voice heard.
“We were questioned for more than two hours– who are you – what are you doing etc… More police officers arrived – including a man and a woman from ‘entry and exit’ – the immigration people I presumed.
They flicked through our passports and made calls in the outside corridor.
Eventually we got down to what they really wanted– a series of demands delivered by a man in a stripy pink shirt. He told us to erase our pictures – then ordered us not come back to see Mr Huang – and finished with a request to take ‘beautiful pictures of Chengdu’ if we were going to stay in the city.
What if we didn’t I asked? The man in the stripy shirt we’d never get another visa to work in China.
We said we would do what we were told – for we had no other option – and dejectedly I made my apologies to Mr Huang.
He gave a little speech as I discreetly filmed with my mobile phone; “we sincerely hope that foreign friends will take an interest in this situation – we need your help,” he added.
The police looked relived as they escorted us out of the building.
A tricky situation with the ‘foreign media’ had been dealt with, leaving them with time perhaps, for drink in their smart, casual wear. But they left a determined and passionate adversary in Mr Huang, up there on the 11th floor– a man who can’t be pushed aside so easily.