Background COVID-19 poses a severe threat worldwide. This study analyzes its propagation and evaluates statistically the effect of mobility restriction policies on the spread of the disease. Methods We apply a variation of the stochastic Susceptible-Infectious-Recovered model to describe the temporal-spatial evolution of the disease across 33 provincial regions in China, where the disease was first identified. We employ Bayesian Markov Chain Monte-Carlo methods to estimate the model and to characterize a dynamic transmission network, which enables us to evaluate the effectiveness of various local and national policies. Results The spread of the disease in China was predominantly driven by community transmission within regions, which dropped substantially after local governments imposed various lockdown policies. Further, Hubei was only the epicenter of the early epidemic stage. Secondary epicenters, such as Beijing and Guangdong, had already become established by late January 2020. The transmission from these epicenters substantially declined following the introduction of mobility restrictions across regions. Conclusions The spatial transmission network is able to differentiate the effect of the local lockdown policies and the cross-region mobility restrictions. We conclude that both are important policy tools for curbing the disease transmission. The coordination between central and local governments is important in suppressing the spread of infectious diseases.