A pregnant lawyer was so devastated by a false front-page story in a Chinese newspaper accusing her of fraud that she gave birth prematurely, a court was told yesterday. Jessie Chu Siu Kuk-yuen is suing Apple Daily and its chief editor, Ip Yut-kin, for $5.9 million in damages for defamation. 'I was once a happy pregnant woman. I had my career. I had my family,' a tearful Mrs Chu told the Court of First Instance. 'All of a sudden, it was like someone chopping off my hands, then telling me 'I'm very sorry. I've chopped the wrong person'.' The article on October 7, 1998, alleged that the solicitor's sole practice, Jessie Chu & Co, in Yuen Long, was under police investigation as a result of a report by the Law Society. It was withdrawn the following day with a full apology acknowledging that the allegations were untrue. Mrs Chu's counsel, Benjamin Yu SC, said the paper had accused her of crimes including forgery, issuing dishonoured cheques, embezzling her clients' money and absconding. 'The libel is one of the most serious that one could think of,' he said. 'We're talking about a professional person [for whom] professionalism is the most valuable asset.' Mr Yu said the article contained 'a lot of fabrication' and the apology 'doesn't wipe out the effect of libel'. 'If only they had contacted the plaintiff before publishing the article, if they had done a little bit more, this mistake would not have happened,' he said. Mrs Chu, a solicitor since 1992, gave birth to her second child on November 15, 1998 - 27 weeks and four days into pregnancy. The baby boy weighed just 1kg and was 'at the brink of death on several occasions' due to life-threatening complications, she said. 'I felt that I was unable to do anything while my son was struggling for his life.' Her son was put into intensive care at Baptist Hospital and was not discharged until February last year. 'I would never have dreamt of such a thing happening to me,' Mrs Chu said of the defamatory article. She said she had not dared return to work until a psychiatrist advised her it was all right to do so in August last year - and then only part-time. 'I became very agitated at home. I beat my [eldest] daughter very often. I felt guilty. I adored her but still I beat her,' she said. Apple Daily claims Mrs Chu is predisposed to stress and disputes the amount of damages being claimed. The hearing before Madam Justice Maria Yuen Ka-ning continues.