Representatives from the Chinese government met with festival director Darryl Macdonald to request the cancellation of the film The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom, according to a statement on the festival website.
When Macdonald refused to pull the film, China withdrew the films City of Life and Death and Quick, Quick, Slow.
Macdonald said he was saddened by the Chinese decision but that agreeing to the government's demands would have set a bad precedent.
"We cannot allow the concerns of one country or community to dictate what films we should or should not play, based on their own cultural or political perspective," he said.
The films have been replaced by:
- Sticky Fingers, a crime caper movie filmed partly in Montreal.
- For a Moment Freedom, an Australian-French film about Middle Eastern refugees who have made their way to Turkey to apply for European visas.
Lu was reluctant to be interviewed about the Palm Springs cancellation and hinted he was unable to speak freely about it because of political pressure.
Quick, Quick, Slow is a comedy about some Chinese retirees who start a dance competition.
The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom is to have its North American premiere in Palm Springs when it screens on Sunday.
The documentary from Tibetan filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam follows the Dalai Lama's life in 2008, the year of protests in Tibet, the long march in India and the Beijing Olympics.
The festival specializes in independent features and documentaries making their North American or U.S. debuts and also presents a majority of the films submitted for consideration for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.
China has begun a campaign of pressure on festivals that show films critical of China, withdrawing works last year from a festival in Melbourne over a film about a Uighur dissident. Chinese hackers later crashed the film festival's website. It also withdrew Chinese films from contention for the Golden Horse Awards, held in Taiwan.