•The metal-biochar interactions and mechanisms in soils were reviewed.
•Potential risks associated with biochar amendment were discussed.
•Cases of biochar application in soils in China were summarized.
•Long term effects of biochar on soil remediation need further investigation.
There are global concerns about heavy metal (HM) contamination in soils, which in turn has produced an increased demand for soil remediation. Biochar has been widely documented to effectively immobilize metals in contaminated soils and has received increasing attention for use in soil remediation. Here, we review recent progresses in understanding metal-biochar interactions in soils, potential risks associated with biochar amendment, and application of biochar in soil remediation in China. These recent studies indicate that: (1) the remediation effect depends on the characteristics of both biochar and soil and their interactions; (2) biochar applications could decrease the mobility/bioavailability of HMs in soils and HM accumulation in plants; and (3) despite its advantages, biochar applications could pose ecological and health risks, e.g., by releasing toxic substances into soils or by inhalation of biochar dust. Research gaps still exist in the development of practical methods for preparing and applying different biochars that target specific HMs. In the future, the long term effects and security of biochar applications on soil remediation, soil organisms and plant growth need to be considered.