China Ambassador denies reports of Uighur concentration camps after damning footage emerges

China's discordant relationship with the Uighur people is in the spotlight again after drone footage appearing to show them being blindfolded and led onto trains in Xinjiang was authenticated by western intelligence agencies.

China's Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, was shown the footage in a live TV interview on the BBC on Sunday (local time), but told host Andrew Marr he "did not know" what the video was showing and said any suggestion of concentration camps was "fake".

"There is no such concentration camps in Xinjiang," he said. "There's a lot of fake accusations against China."

Xinjiang is an ethnic minority autonomous region. It has a population that was until recently made up of mostly Uighur Muslims, who share closer cultural and ethnic ties with Central Asian countries than they do with the rest of China.

Uighurs' fractious relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been worsened by violence over the last 20 years, culminating in Beijing allowing local governments to "educate and transform" Uighur people influenced by Islam at "vocational training centres".

These training centres - which have hosted as many as 1 million Uighurs - have been likened to concentration camps, and there have been reports of forced sterilisation of women by authorities.

China initially disputed the training centres existed, but later admitted they did and were being used to deter would-be terrorists amid mounting evidence.

The drone footage, posted to YouTube last year, is drawing renewed concerns after the Australian Strategic Policy Institute confirmed it's real.

When confronted with the footage live on-air, Liu said it could be showing the transfer of prisoners, rather than Uighurs. He also disputed the CCP's own statistics on the Uighur population in Xinjiang, which showed it had fallen 84 percent between 2015 and 2018.

"First of all, there's no so-called pervasive, massive sterilisation among Uighur people in China - it's totally against the truth," he said.

"Secondly, government policy is strongly opposed to this kind of practice. But I cannot rule out single cases for any country... general policy is that we treat every ethnic group as equal in China."

Liu denied there was any correlation between China's Uighur training centres and German concentration camps of the 1930s and 1940s.

On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke out against China's treatment of Uighurs in a speech to the NZ-China Business Summit in Auckland, describing it as an example of the ways countries will take "different perspectives on some issues".

She also singled out China's contentious new Hong Kong security law and its reluctance for Taiwan to become a member of the World Health Organization for criticism.