Physical restraint (PR) for patients is an ongoing controversial topic in psychiatry. This study examined the percentage of PR and its associations with clinical characteristics and the implementation of the National Mental Health Law (NMHL) in China. The study consecutively assessed a sample of 1364 psychiatric inpatients. Socio-demographic and clinical data including use of PR were collected from the medical records using a form designed for this study and confirmed via interview. Psychopathology and insight were measured using standardized instruments. The percentage of PR was 27.2% in the whole sample with 30.7% and 22.4% occurring respectively before and after the NMHL implementation (p=0.001). In multiple logistic regression analysis PR was positively associated with unemployment, lower income, aggression in the past month, being admitted before the NMHL implementation and poorer insight. The percentage of PR in Chinese psychiatric patients is associated with various clinical factors and appeared to decrease after the implementation of the NMHL. Focused and individualized care for patients who are unemployed, have low income, recent aggression and poor insight would be necessary at early stages of admission. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.