"What has been done there is nothing to do with human rights, nothing to do with religion," China's ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
"It's about fighting terrorism and taking preventing actions."
Australia has been a vocal critic of China's mass detention of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
Despite repeated questioning Mr Cheng wouldn't say how many people were being detained in camps, simply saying the number was "dynamic".
The ambassador played reporters a Chinese government video titled "Fighting Terrorism", showing a mash of clips purporting to show attacks in China by Uighurs.
The rare media event was held at Mr Cheng's residence in Canberra and rounded out a year where there has been various points of tension between Australia and China.
Two Australian politicians, Andrew Hastie and James Paterson, were banned from entering China after applying for a study tour.
Canberra has also been vocal about the detention of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who has been detained without charge in Beijing for the entire year.
Acting prime minister Michael McCormack said the government was very worried about him and would continue to pursue the matter with Beijing.
But the two nations are still very good friends, Mr McCormack said, before adding that Australian farmers rely on Chinese markets.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Australia shouldn't confuse economic interests with human rights values.
"That's why we should be prepared to speak up on human rights, to do it in a way that is straightforward. We should never be frightened of doing that," he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Cheng acknowledged it could have been a better year for relations with Australia, but he expects it to be "back to normal with the efforts of both sides".
The ambassador didn't rule out Prime Minister Scott Morrison being invited to Beijing.
"As ambassador, of course, I will do what I can ... to promote these relations, these important relations."