Not long after, reports emerged that broadcasters in mainland China and Hong Kong would not be airing the Oscars ceremony for the first time in decades. (One of them, TVB, a Hong Kong broadcaster, said the decision was commercial.)

“Do Not Split,” lost to “Colette,” a film about a French resistance member who visits a concentration camp where her brother died. But its nomination alone had already helped raise awareness about China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, Anders Hammer, the documentary’s director, said in an interview before the awards.

“The ironic thing is that this censorship and the actions taken in Beijing and also Hong Kong have brought much more attention to our documentary and also brought much more attention to the main theme of our documentary, which is how basic democratic rights are disappearing in Hong Kong” Mr. Hammer said.

Chinese reporters working at state-controlled news outlets had been ordered weeks ago to refrain from covering the awards ceremony altogether, said two employees of Beijing-based news outlets, speaking on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue.

On Monday afternoon, there was no mention of the Oscars in the entertainment section of the flagship People’s Daily website. Instead, the top stories included a report on rural tourism in China and another on a “World Tai Chi Day” event in Malta.

But Ms. Zhao’s fans were undeterred by the censorship. On social media, they resorted to tactics that are by now familiar to many Chinese internet users: blurring out the names of Ms. Zhao and the film, writing backward, turning images on their side or adding slashes or exclamation marks between Chinese characters.

In their posts, many people praised Ms. Zhao’s acceptance speech, in which she said she had been “thinking a lot lately about how I keep going when things get hard.” For inspiration, she said she often looked to a line from a 13th-century classical text that she had memorized as a child growing up in China: “People at birth are inherently good.”

The line resonated with many Chinese who had also grown up memorizing those texts.

“It’s so hard to describe how I felt when I heard her say onstage those six characters in a Beijing accent,” one user wrote. “It may not be my favorite classical phrase — I would say I don’t even really agree with it — but in that moment I cried.”

For many observers, the censorship was something of a lost opportunity for the Chinese government, which has long sought to replicate the success of Hollywood in projecting American soft power around the world.

“The way she drew from her Chinese heritage in tackling difficulties is inspiring,” said Raymond Zhou, an independent film critic based in Beijing. “It’s sad she got massively misunderstood due to a string of cross-cultural events.”

He declined to say more, given the political sensitivity of the issue, adding only that “her body of work speaks for itself.”

Austin Ramzy and Joy Dong contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu contributed research.

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